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" Everything is what it is, 
and not another thing 1 ' 






First Edition 1903 
Reprinted 1922 




D. D. D. 



IT appears to me that in Ethics, as in all other philosophical 
studies, the difficulties and disagreements, of which its 
history is full, are mainly due to a very simple cause: namely 
to the attempt to answer questions, without first discovering 
precisely what question it is which you desire to answer. I do 
not know how far this source of error would be done away, if 
philosophers would try to discover what question they were 
asking, before they set about to answer it; for the work of 
analysis and distinction is often very difficult : we may often 
fail to make the necessary discovery, even though we make a 
(U'hniir eiUempt to do so. But I am inclined to think that in 
many cases a resolute attempt would be sufficient to ensure 
success ; so that, if only this attempt were made, many of the 
most glaring difficulties and disagreements in philosophy would 
disappear. At all events, philosophers seem, in general, not to 
make the attempt; and, whether in consequence of this omission 
or not, they are constantly endeavouring to prove that 'Yes ' or 
No' will answer questions, to which neither answer is correct, 
owing to the fact that what they have before their minds is not 
one question, but several, to some of which the true answer is 
' No,' to others ' Yes.' 

I have tried in this book to distinguish clearly two kinds of 
question, which moral philosophers have always professed to 


answer, but which, as I have tried to shew, they have almost 
always confused both with one another and with other questions. 
These two questions may be expressed, the first in the form : 
JVhat kind of things ought to exist for their own sakes ? the 
second in the form rMVhat kind of actions ought we to perform ? 
I have tried to shew exactly what it is that we ask about a 
thing, when we ask whether it ought to exist for its own sake, 
is good in itself or has intrinsic value ; and exactly what it is 
that we ask about an action, when we ask whether we ought to 
do it, whether it is a right action or a duty. 

But from a clear insight into the nature of these two 
questions, there appears to me to follow a second most impor- 
tant result: namely, what is the nature of the evidence, by which 
alone any ethical proposition can be proved or disproved, con- 
firmed or rendered doubtful. Once we recognise the exact 
meaning of the two questions, I think it also becomes plain 
exactly what kind of reasons are relevant as arguments for or 
against any particular answer to them. It becomes plain that, 
for answers to the first question, no relevant evidence whatever 
can be adduced : from no other truth, except themselves alone, 
can it be inferred that they are either true or false. We can 
guard against error only by taking care, that, when we try to 
answer a question of this kind, we have before our minds that 
question only, and not some other or others ; but that there is 
great danger of such errors of confusion I have tried to shew, 
and also what are the chief precautions by the use of which we 
may guard against them. As for the second question, it becomes 
equally plain, that any answer to it *.9 capable of proof or dis- 
proof that, indeed, so many different considerations are relevant 
to its truth or falsehood, as to make the attainment of proba- 
bility very difficult, and the attainment of certainty impossible. 
Nevertheless the kind of evidence, which is both necessary and 
alone relevant to such proof and disproof, is capable of exact 


definition, Such evidence must contain propositions of two 
kinds and of two kinds only : it must consist, in the first place, 
of truths with regard to the results of the action in question 
of causal truths but it must also contain ethical truths of our 
first or self-evident class. Many truths of both kinds are 
necessary to the proof that any action ought to be done ; and 
any other kind of evidence is wholly irrelevant. It follows that, 
if any ethical philosopher offers for propositions of the first kind 
any evidence whatever, or if, for propositions of the second kind, 
he either fails to adduce both causal and ethical truths, or 
adduces truths that are neither, his reasoning has not the least 
tendency to establish his conclusions. But not only are his 
conclusions totally devoid of weight : we have, moreover, reason 
to suspect him of the error of confusion ; since the offering of 
irrelevant evidence generally indicates that the philosopher who 
offers it has had before his mind, not the question which he 
professes to answer, but some other entirely different one. 
Ethical discussion, hitherto, has perhaps consisted chiefly in 
reasoning of this totally irrelevant kind. 

One main object of this book may, then, be expressed by 
slightly changing one of Kant's famous titles. I have endea- 
voured to write 'Prolegomena to any future Ethics that can 
possibly pretend to be scientific.' In other words, I have 
endeavoured to discover what are the fundamental principles of | 
ethical reasoning; and the establishment of these principles, 
rather than of any conclusions which may be attained by their 
use, may be regarded as my main object. I have, however, also 
attempted, in Chapter VI, to present some conclusions, with 
regard to the proper answer of the question 'What is good in / 
itself?' which are very different from any which have commonly ( 
been advocated by philosophers. I have tried to define the 
classes within which all great goods and evils fall ; and I have 
maintained that very many different things are good and evil 


in themselves, and that neither class of things possesses any 
other property which is both common to all its members and 
peculiar to them. 

In order to express the fact that ethical propositions of my 
first class are incapable of proof or disproof, I have sometimes 
followed Sidgwick's usage in calling them 'Intuitions.' But I 
beg it may be noticed that I am not an ' Intuitionist,' in the 
ordinary sense of the term. Sidgwick himself seems never to 
have been clearly aware of the immense importance of the 
difference which distinguishes his Intuitionism from the 
common doctrine, which has generally been called by that 
name. The Intuitionist proper is distinguished by maintain- 
ing that propositions of my second class propositions which 
assert that a certain action is right or a duty are incapable of 
proof or disproof by any enquiry into the results of such actions. 
I, on the contrary, am no less anxious to maintain that pro- 
positions of this kind are not 'Intuitions,' than to maintain that 
propositions of my first class are Intuitions. 

Again, I would wish it observed that, when I call such 
propositions ' Intuitions,' I mean merely to assert that they are 
incapable of proof ; I imply nothing whatever as to the manner 
or origin of our cognition of them. Still less do I imply (as 
most Intuitionists have done) that any proposition whatever is 
true, because we cognise it in a particular way or by the exercise 
of any particular faculty : I hold, on the contrary, that in every 
way in which it is possible to cognise a true proposition, it is 
also possible to cognise a false one. 

When this book had been already completed, I found, in 
Brentano's 'Origin of the Knowledge of Right and Wrong 1 ,' 

1 ' The Origin of the Knowledge of Right and Wrong.' By Franz Brentano. 
English Translation by Cecil Hague. Constable, 1902. I have written a review 
of this book, which will, I hope, appear in the International Journal of Ethics 
for October, 1903. I may refer to this review for a fuller account of my reasons 
for disagreeing with Brentano. 


opinions far more closely resembling my own, than those of any 
other ethical writer with whom I am acquainted. Brentano 
appears to agree with me completely (1) in regarding all ethical 
propositions as defined by the fact that they predicate a single 
unique objective concept; (2) in dividing such propositions 
sharply into the same two kinds ; (3) in holding that the first 
kind are incapable of proof ; and (4) with regard to the kind of 
evidence which is necessary and relevant to the proof of the 
second kind. But he regards the fundamental ethical concept 
as being, not the simple one which I denote by ' good,' but the 
complex one which I have taken to define ' beautiful ' ; and he 
does not recognise, but even denies by implication, the principle 
which I have called the principle of organic unities. In conse- 
quence of these two differences, his conclusions as to what 
things are good in themselves, also differ very materially from 
mine. He agrees, however, that there are many different goods, 
and that the love of good and beautiful objects constitutes an 
important class among them. 

I wish to refer to one oversight, of which I became aware 
only when it was too late to correct it, and which may, I am 
afraid, cause unnecessary trouble to some readers. I have 
omitted to discuss directly the mutual relations of the several 
different notions, which are all expressed by the word ' end.' 
The consequences of this omission may perhaps be partially 
avoided by a reference to my article on 'Teleology' in Baldwin's 
Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology. 

If I were to rewrite my work now, I should make a very 
different, and I believe that I could make a much better book. 
But it may be doubted whether, in attempting to satisfy myself, 
I might not merely render more obscure the ideas which I am 
most anxious to convey, without a corresponding gain in com- 
pleteness and accuracy. However that may be, my belief that 


to publish the book as it stands was probably the best thing I 
could do, does not prevent me from being painfully aware that 
it is full of defects. 

August, 1903. 

[This book is now reprinted without any alteration whatever, 
except that a few misprints and grammatical mistakes have been 
corrected. It is reprinted, because I am still in agreement with 
its main tendency and conclusions; and it is reprinted without 
alteration, because I found that, if I were to begin correcting 
what in it seemed to me to need correction, I could not stop 
short of rewriting the whole book. 

G. E. M.] 





1. In order to define Ethics, we must discover what is both common 

and peculiar to all undoubted ethical judgments ; ^ . . 1 

2. but this is not that they are concerned with human conduct, 

but that they are concerned with a certain predicate 'good,' 
and its converse 'bad,' which may be applied both to conduct 
and to other things 1 

3. The subjects 'of the judgments of a scientific Ethics are not, like 

those of some studies, ' particular things ' ; . . . . 3 

4. but it includes all universal j udtpnents which assert the relation 

of 'goodness' to any subject, and hence includes Casuistry . 3 


5. It must, however, enquire not only what things are universally 

related to goodness, but also, wh*it this predicate, to which 
they are related, is : 5 

6. and the answer to this question is that it is indjitiniible^ . . 6 

7. or syujile: for if by definition be meant the analysis of an object 

of thought, only complex objects can be defined ; . . . 7 

8. and of the three senses in which 'definition ' can be used, this 

is the most important. ........ 8 

9. What is thus indefinable is not ' the good,' or the whole of that 

which always possesses the predicate 'good,' but this predicate 

itself. 8 

10. ' Good,' then, denotes one unique simple object of thought among 
innumerable others ; but this object has very commonly been 
identified with some other a fallacy which may be called 
' the naturalistic fallacy '....... 9 

M. b 



ft. and which reduces what is used as a fundamental principle of 
Ethics either to a tautology or to a statement about the 
meaning of a word. 10 

12. The nature of this fallacy is easily recognised ; . . . .12 

13. and if it were avoided, it would be plain that the only alter- 

natives to the admission that 'good' is indefinable, are either 
that it is complex or that there is no notion at all peculiar 
to Ethics alternatives which can only be refuted by an 
appeal to inspection, but which can be so refuted. . . 15 

14. The 'naturalistic fallacy' illustrated by Bentham ; and the im- 

portance of avoiding it pointed out 17 


15. The relations which ethical judgments assert to hold universally 

between 'goodness ' and other things are of .twjj kinds : a thing 
may be asserted either to fcegopditself or to be causally 
related to something else which is itself good to be 'good_as 
ajneans.' 21 

16. Our investigations of the latter kind of relation cannot hope to 

establish more than that a certain kind of action will generally 

be followed by the best possible results ; .... 22 

17. but a relation of the former kind, if true at all, will be true of 

all cases. All ordinary ethical judgments assert causal rela- 
tions, but they are commonly treated as if they did not, 
because the two kinds of relation are not distinguished. . 23 


18. The investigationj)f_intrin^sic jgalues is complicated by the fact 

that the value of a whole may be different from the sum of 
the values of its parts, 

19. in which case the part has to the whole a relation, which exhibits 

an equally important djegjice from and resmlajuce_to that 

of means to end 29 

20. The term ' organic whole ' might well be used to denote that 

a whole has this property, since, of the two other properties 
which it is commonly used to imply, 30 

21. ong, that of reciprocal causal dependence between parts, has no 

necessary relation to this one, . . .31 

22. and theoh_er, upon which most stress has been laid, can be 

true of no whole whatsoever, being a self-contradictory con- 
ception due to confusion. .... 33 
/ 23. Summary of chapter 3 *> 





24. This and the two following chapters will consider certain proposed 

answers to the second of ethical questions : What is good in 
itself 1 These proposed answers are characterised by the facts 

(1) that they declare some one kind of thing to be alone good 
in itself ; and (21 that they do so, because they suppose this 

one thing to define the meaning of 'good.' .... 37 

25. Such theories may be divided into two groups (1) Metaphysical, 

(2) Naturalistic : and the second group may be subdivided 
into two others, (a) theories which declare some natural object, 
other than pleasure, to be sole good, (b] Hedonism. The pre- 
sent chapter will deal with (a) 38 

26. Definition of what is meant by 'Naturalism.' .... 39 

27. The common argument that things are good, because they are 
^* 'natural,' may involve either (1) the false proposition that 

the ' normal,' as such, is good ; 41 

28. or (2) the false proposition that the ' necessary,' as such, is 

good. . . . . . . . . . . .44 

29. But a systematized appeal to Nature is now most prevalent in 

connection with the term 'Evolution.' An examination of 
Mr Herbert Spencer's Ethics will illustrate this form of 
Naturalism 45 

30. Darwin's scientific theory of ' natural selection,' which has 

mainly caused the modern vogue of the term 'Evolution,' 
must be carefully distinguished from certain ideas which 
are commonly associated with the latter term. . . 47 

31. Mr Spencer's connection of Evolution with Ethics seems to 

shew the influence of the naturalistic fallacy ; . . .48 

32. but Mr Spencer is vague as to the ethical relations of 'pleasure' 

and 'evolution,' and his Naturalism may be mainly Natural- 
istic Hedonism 49 

33. A discussion of the third chapter of the Data of Ethics serves 

to illustrate these two points and to shew that Mr Spencer 
is in utter confusion with regard to the fundamental principles 
of Ethics 51 

34. Three possible views as to the relation of Evolution to Ethics 

are distinguished from the naturalistic view to which it is 
proposed to confine the name ' Evolutionistic Ethics.' On 
any of these three views the relation would be unimportant, 
and the 'Evolutionistic' view, which makes it important, 

involves a double fallacy 54 

\35. Summary of chapter. 58 






36. The prevalence of Hedonism is mainly due to the naturalistic 

fallacy 59 

37. Hedonism may be defined as the doctrine that ' Pleasure is the 

sole good': this doctrine has always been held by Hedonists 
and used by them as a fundamental ethical principle, al- 
though it has commonly been confused with others. . 61 

38. The method pursued in this chapter will consist in exposing the 

reasons commonly offered for the truth of Hedonism and in 
bringing out the reasons, which suffice to shew it untrue, by 
a criticism of J. S. Mill & H. Sidgwick 63 


39. Mill declares that ' Happiness is the only thing desirable as an 

end,' and insists that ' Questions of ultimate ends are not 
amenable to direct proof ' ; 64 

yet he giyes a proof of the first proposition, which consists in 
(1) the fallacious confusion of 'desirable' with 'desired,' . 66 

(2) an attempt to shew that nothing but pleasure is desired. . 67 

The theory that nothing but pleasure is desired seems largely 
due to a confusion between the cause and the object of 
desire : pleasure is certainly not the sole object of desire, and, 
even if it is always among the causes of desire, that fact 
would not tempt anyone to think it a good. ... 68 

Mill attempts to reconcile his doctrine that pleasure is the sole 
object of desire with his admission that other things are 
desired, by the absurd declaration that what is a means to 
L happiness is ' a part ' of happiness 71 

44. Summary of Mill's argument and of my criticism. ... 72 


45. We must now proceed to consider the principle of Hedonism as 

an ' Intuition,' as which it has been clearly recognised by 
P*rof. Sidgwick alone. That it should be thus incapable of 
proof is not, in itself, any reason for dissatisfaction. . . 74 

46. In thus beginning to consider what things are good in them- 

selves, we leave the refutation of Naturalism behind, and 
enter on the second division of ethical questions. ... 76- 



47. Mill's doctrine that some pleasures are superior 'in quality' to 
others implies both (1) that judgments of ends must be 

'intuitions' ; 77 

and (2) that pleasure is not the sole good 79 

19. Prof. Sidgwick has avoided these confusions made by Mill : in 
considering his arguments we shall, therefore, merely con- 
sider the question 'Is pleasure the sole good ?' . . . ''ol 

50. Prof. Sidgwick first tries to shew that nothing outside of 

Human Existence can be good. Reasons are given for 
doubting this. 81 

51. He then goes on to the far more important proposition that no 

part of Human Existence, except pleasure, is desirable. . 85 

52. But pleasure must be distinguished from consciousness of 
V pleasure, and (1) it is plain that, when so distinguished, 

pleasure is not the sole good ; 87 

53. and (2) it may be made equally plain that consciousness of 

pleasure is not the sole good, if we are equally careful to dis- 
tinguish it from its usual accompaniments 90 

54. Of Prof. Sidgwick's two arguments for the contrary view, the 

second is equally compatible with the supposition that 
pleasure is a mere criterion r>f what. j right: ... 91 

55. and in liis first, the appeal to reflective intuition, he fails to 

put the question clearly (1) in that he does not recognise the 
principle of organic unities ; .92 

56. and (2) in that he fails to emphasize that the agreement, which 

he has tried to shew, between hedonistic judgments and 
those of Common Sense, only holds of judgments of means : 
hedonistic judgments of ends are flagrantly paradoxical. . 94 

57. I conclude, then, that a reflective intuition, if proper precau- 

tions are taken, will agree with Common Sense that it is 
absurd to regard mere consciousness of pleasure as the sole 
good 95 


58. It remains to consider Egoism and Utilitarianism. It is im- 

portant to distinguish the former, as the doctrine that 'my 
own pleasure is sole good,' from the doctrine, opposed to 
Altruism, that to pursue my own pleasure exclusively is 
right as a means 96 

59. Egoism proper is utterly untenable, being self-contradictory : 

it fails to perceive that when I declare a thing to be my own 
good, I must be declaring it to be good absolutely or else not 
good at all 97 


60. This confusion is further brought out by an examination of 

Prof. Sidgwick's contrary view ; 99 

61. and it is shewn that, in consequence of this confusion, his 

representation of ' the relation of Rational Egoism to Rational 
Benevolence' as 'the profoundest problem of Ethics,' and his 
view that a certain hypothesis is required to 'make Ethics 
rational,' are grossly erroneous 102 

62. The same confusion is involved in the attempt to infer 
r Utilitarianism from Psychological Hedonism, as commonly 

held, e.g. by Mill 104 

63. Egoism proper seems also to owe its plausibility to its confusion 

with Egoism, as a doctrine of means 105 

64. Certain ambiguities in the conception of Utilitarianism are 

noticed ; and it is pointed out (1) that, as a doctrine of the 
end to be pursued, it is finally refuted by the refutation of 
Hedonism, and (2) that, while the arguments most commonly 
urged in its favour could, at most, only shew it to offer a 
correct criterion of right action, they are quite insufficient 
even for this purpose. . 105 

65. Summary of chapter. 108 




66. The term 'metaphysical' is defined as having reference 

primarily to any object of knowledge which is not a part of 
Nature does not exist in time, as an object of perception ; 
but since metaphysicians, not content with pointing out the 
truth about such entities, have always supposed that what 
does not exist in Nature, must, at least, exist, the term also 
has reference to a supposed 'supersensible reality': . .110 

67. and by 'metaphysical Ethics' I mean those systems which 

maintain or imply that the answer to the question 'What is 
good ?' logically depends upon the answer to the question 
'What is the nature of supersensible reality?.' All such 
systems obviously involve the same fallacy the 'naturalistic 
fallacy' by the use of which Naturalism was also defined. . 113 

68. Metaphysics, as dealing with a 'supersensible reality,' may have 

a bearing upon practical Ethics (1) if its supersensible 
reality is conceived as something future, which our actions 


can affect ; and (2) since it will prove that every proposition 
of practical Ethics is false, if it can shew that an eternal 
reality is either the only real thing or the only good thing. 
Most metaphysical writers, believing in a reality of the 
latter kind, do thus imply the complete falsehood of every 
practical proposition, although they fail to see that their 
Metaphysics thus contradicts their Ethics. . . .115 


69. But the theory, by which I have denned Metaphysical Ethics, 

is not that Metaphysics has a logical bearing upon the question 
involved in practical Ethics 'What effects will my action 
produce ?,' but that it has such a bearing upon the funda- 
mental ethical question 'What is good in itself'/.' This 
theory has been refuted by the proof, in Chap. I, that the 
naturalistic fallacy is a fallacy : it only remains to discuss 
certain confusions which seem to have lent it plausibility. . 118 

70. One such source of confusion seems to lie in the failure to dis- 

tinguish between the proposition This is good,' when it 
means 'This existing thing is good,' and the same proposition, 
when it means ' The existence of this kind of thing would be 
good'; 118 

71. and another seems to lie in the failure to distinguish between 

that which suggests a truth, or is a c^uo*-of our knowing it, 
and that upon which it logically depends, or which is a ^"ff?K 
for believing it: in the former sense fiction has a more 
important bearing upon Ethics than Metaphysics can have. 121 


72. But a more important source of confusion seems to lie in the 

supposition that 'to be good' is identical with the possession 
of some supersensible property, which is also involved in 
the definition of 'reality.' 122 

73. One cause of this supposition seems to be the logical prejudice 

that all propositions are of the most familiar type that in 
which subject and predicate are both existents. . . .123 

74. But ethical propositions cannot be reduced to this type: in 

particular, they are obviously to be distinguished . .125 

75. (1) from Natural Laws; with which one of Kant's most famous 

doctrines confuses them, 126 

76. and\2) from Commands ; with which they are confused both by 

Kant and by others 127 




77. This latter confusion is one of the sources of the prevalent 

modern doctrine that 'being good' is identical with 'being 
willed'; but the prevalence of this doctrine seems to be 
chiefly due to other causes. I shall try to shew with regard 
to it (1) what are the chief errors which seem to have led to 
its adoption ; and (2) that, apart from it, the Metaphysics of 
Volition can hardly have the smallest logical bearing upon 
Ethics 128 

78. (1) It has been commonly held, since Kant, that 'goodness' has 

the same relation to Will or Feeling, which 'truth' or 
\y 'reality' has to Cognition: that the proper method for 
Ethics is to discover wtiat is implied in Will or Feeling, just 
as, according to Kant, the proper method for Metaphysics 
was to discover what is implied in Cognition. . . .129 

79. The actual relations between 'goodness' and Will or Feeling, 

from which this false doctrine is inferred, seem to be mainly 
(a) the causal^ relation consisting in the fact that it is only 
by reflection upon the experiences of Will and Feeling that 
we become aware of ethical distinctions ; (6) the facts that a 
cognition of goodness is perhaps always included in certain 
kinds of Willing and Feeling, and is generally accompanied 
by them : 130 

80. but from neither of these psychological facts does it follow 

that 'to be good' is identical with being willed or felt in a 
certain way : the supposition that it does follow is an 
instance of the fundamental contradiction of modern Episte- 
mology the contradiction involved in both distinguishing 
and identifying the object and the act of Thought, 'truth' 
itself and its supposed criterion: 131 

81. and, once this analogy between Volition and Cognition is 

accepted, the view that ethical propositions have an essential 
reference to Will or Feeling, is strengthened by another 
error with regard to the nature of Cognition the error of 
supposing that 'perception' denotes merely a certain way of 
cognising an object, whereas it actually includes the assertion 
that the object is also true .133 

82. The argument of the last three is recapitulated ; and it is 

pointed out (1) that Volition and Feeling are not analogous 
to Cognition, (2) that, even if they were, still 'to be good' 
could not mean 'to be willed or felt in a certain way.' . .135 

83. (2) If 'being good' and 'being willed' are not identical, then 

the latter could only be a criterion of the former ; and, in 



order to shew that it was so, we should have to establish 
independently that many things were good that is to say, 
we should have to establish most of our ethical conclusions, 
before the Metaphysics of Volition could possibly give us the 
smallest assistance. . . . . . . .137 

34. The fact that the metaphysical writers who, like Green, attempt 
to base Ethics on Volition, do not even attempt this in- 
dependent investigation, shews that they start from the 
false assumption that goodness is identical with being willed, 
and hence that their ethical reasonings have no value what- 
soever 138 

85. Summary of chapter. 139 



86. The question to be discussed in this chapter must be clearly 

distinguished from the two questions hitherto discussed, 
namely (1) What is the nature of the proposition: 'This is 
good in itself? 142 

87. and (2) What things are good in themselves ? to which we gave 

one answer in deciding that pleasure was not the only thing 
good in itself. 144 

88. In this chapter we shall deal with the third object of ethical 

enquiry: namely answers to the question 'What conduct is 
a means to good results ?' or 'What ou^ht we tojjo?' This 
is the question of Practical Ethics, and its answer involves 
an assertion of causal connection. . .146 

89. It is shewn that the assertions 'This action is right' or 'is my 

duty ' are equivalent to the assertion that the total results of 
the action in question will be the best possible ; . 

90. and the rest of the chapter will deal with certain conclusions, 

upon which light is thrown by this fact. Of which the first V 
is (1) that Intuitionism is mistaken; since no proposition fi A 
with regard to duty can be self-evident 148 

91. (2) It is plain that we cannot hope to prove which among all 

the actions, which it is possible for us to perform on every 
occasion, will produce the best total results: to discover 
what is our 'duty,' in this strict sense, is impossible. It 
may, however, be possible to shew which among the actions, 
which we are likely to perform, will produce the best results. 149 


92. The distinction made in the last is further explained ; and it 

is insisted that all that Ethics has done or can do, is, not to 
determine absolute duties, but to point out which, among a 
few of the alternatives, possible under certain circumstances, 
will have the better results 150 

93. (3) Even this latter task is immensely difficult, and no 

adequate proof that the total results of one action are 
superior to those of another, has ever been given. For (a) we 
can only calculate actual results within a comparatively 
near future : we must, therefore, assume that no results of 
the same action in the infinite future beyond, will reverse 
the balance an assumption which perhaps can be, but 
certainly has not been, justified ; 152 

94. and (6) even to decide that, of any two actions, one has a better 

total result than the other in the immediate future, is very 
difficult ; and it is very improbable, and quite impossible to 
prove, that any single action is in all cases better as means 
than its probable alternative. Rules of duty, even in this 
restricted sense, can only, at most, be general truths. . .154 

95. But (c) most of the actions, most universally approved by 

Common Sense, may pgrbgp ko ahoiyu ^ ^^-^nfr^Uy 
better as means than, any probable alteniaiYfi^on the follow- 
ing__pricTples. (1) With regard to some rules it may be 
shewn that their general observance would be useful in any 
state of society, where the instincts to preserve and propa- 
gate life and to possess property were as strong as they seem 
always to be ; and this utility may be shewn, independently 
of a right view as to what is good in itself, since the observ- 
ance is a means to tjivugs which are a necessary condition 
for the attainment of any great goods in considerable 
quantities 155 

96. (2) Other rules are such that their general observance can only 

be shewn to be useful, as means to the preservation of 
society, under more or less temporary conditions : if any of 
these are to be proved useful in all societies, this can only 
be done by shewing their causal relation to things good or 
evil in themselves, which are not generally recognised to 
be such. 158 

97. It is plain that rules of class (1) may also be justified by the 

existence of such temporary conditions as justify those of 
class (2) ; and among such temporary conditions must be 
reckoned the so-called sanctions 15& 

98. In this way, then, it may be possible to prove the general 

utility, for the present, of those actions, which in our society 



are both generally recognised as duties and generally prac- 
tised ; but it seems very doubtful whether a conclusive case 
can be established for any proposed change in social custom, 
without an independent investigation of what things are 
good or bad in themselves 159 

99. And (d) if we consider the distinct question of how a single 

individual should decide to act (a) in cases where the general 
utility of the action in question is certain, (/3) in other gases : 
there seems reason for thinking that, with regard to (a), 
where the generally useful rule is also generally observed, 
he should always conform to it; but these reasons are not 
conclusive, if either the general observance or the general 
utility is wanting : 162 

100. and that (/3) in all other cases, rules of action should not be 

followed at all, but the individual should consider what 
positive goods, he, in his particular circumstances, seems 
likely to be ableTo~effect, and what evils to avoid. . . 164 

101. (4) It follows further that the distinction denoted by the 

terms 'duty' and 'expediency' is not primarily ethical: 
when we ask 'Is this really expedient?' we are asking pre- 
cisely the same question as when we ask 'Is this my duty ?,' 
viz. 'Is this a means to the best possible?.' 'Duties' are 
mainly distinguished by the non-ethical marks (1) that many 
people are often tempted to avoid them, (2) that their most 
prominent effects are on others than the agent, (3) that they 
excite the moral sentiments : so far as they are distinguished 
by an ethical peculiarity, this is not that they are peculiarly 
useful to perform, but that they are peculiarly useful to 
sanction. .......... 167 

102. The distinction between 'duty' and 'interest' is also, in the 

main, the same non-ethical distinction : but the term 
'interested' does also refer to a distinct ethical predicate 
that an action is to 'my interest' asserts only that it will 
have the best possible effects of one particular kind, not that 
its total effects will be the best possible 170 

103. (5). We may further see that 'virtues' are not to be denned 

as dispositions that are good in themselves : they are not 
necessarily more than dispositions to perform actions gener- 
ally_goodas means, and of these, 'for the most part, only 
those classed as 'duties' in accordance with section (4). 
It follows that to decide whether a disposition is or is not 
'virtuous' involves the difficult causal investigation dis- 
cussed in section (3) ; and that what is a virtue in one state 
of society may not be so in another 171 


104. It follows also that we have no reason to presume, as has 

commonly been done, that the exercise of virtue in the per- 
formance of 'duties' is ever good in itself far less, that it 
is the sole good : 173 

105. and, if we consider the intrinsic value of such exercise, it will 

appear (1) that, in most cases, it has no value, and (2) that 
even the cases, where it has some value, are far from con- 
stituting the sole good. The truth of the latter proposition 
is generally inconsistently implied, even by those who 
deny it; . 174 

106. but in order fairly to decide upon the intrinsic value of virtue, 

we must distinguish three different kinds of disposition, each 
of which is commonly so called and has been maintained to 
be the only kind deserving the name. Thus (a) the mere 
unconscious 'habit' of performing duties, which is the com- 
monest type, has no intrinsic value whatsoever; Christian 
moralists are right in implying that mere ' external Tightness' 
has no intrinsic value, though they are wrong in saying that 
it is^therefore not 'virtuous,' since this implies that it has 
no value even as a means: 175 

107. (b) where virtue consists in a disposition to have, and be 

moved by, a sentiment of love towards really good con- 
sequences of an action and of hatred towards really evil 
ones, it has some intrinsic value, but its value may vary 
greatly in degree : . 177 

108. finally (c) where virtue consists in 'conscientiousness,' i.e. the 

disposition not to act, in certain cases, until we believe and 
feel that our action is right, it seems to have some intrinsic 
value : the value of this feeling has been peculiarly empha- 
sized by Christian Ethics, but it certainly is not, as Kant 
would lead us to think, either the sole thing of value, or 
always good even as a means. . . . . . .178 

109. Summary of chapter. . .180 



110. By an 'ideal' state of things may be meant either (1) the 
Summum Bonum or absolutely best, or (2) the best which 
the laws of nature allow to exist in this world, or (3) any- 
thing greatly good in itself : this chapter will be principally 
occupied with what is ideal in sense (3) with answering the 
fundamental question of Ethics ; 183 



111. but a correct answer to this question is , an essential step 

towards a correct view as to what is 'ideal' in senses (1) 

and (2) 184 

112. In order to obtain a correct answer to the question 'What is 

good in itself?' we must consider what value things would 
have if they existed absolutely by themselves ; 187 

113. and, if we use this method, it is obvious that personal affection 

and aesthetic enjoyments include by far the greatest goods 
with which we are acquainted 188 

114. If we begin by considering I. Aesthetic Enjoyments, it is plain 

(1) that there is always essential to these some one of a great 
variety of different emotions, though these emotions may 
have little value by themselves : . ... . . .189 

115. and (2) that a cognition of really beautiful qualities is equally 

essential, and has equally little value by itself. . . .190 

116. But (3) granted that the appropriate combination of these two 

elements is always a considerable good and may be a very 
great one, we may ask whether, where there is added to this 
a true belief in the existence of the object of the cognition, the 
whole thus formed is not much more valuable still. . . 192 

117. I think that this question should be answered in the affirma- 

tive ; but in order to ensure that this judgment is correct, 

we must carefully distinguish it 194 

118. from the two judgments (a) that knowledge is valuable as a 

means, (b) that, where the object of the cognition is itself 
a good thing, its existence, of course, adds to the value of the 
whole state of things : 195 

119. if, however, we attempt to avoid being biassed by these two 

facts, it still seems that mere true belief may be a con- 
dition essential to great value 197 

120. We thus get a third essential constituent of many great goods ; 

and in this way we are able to justify (1) the attribution of 
value to knowledge, over and above its value as a means, and 
(2) the intrinsic superiority of the proper appreciation of a 
real object over the .appreciation of an equally valuable 
object of mere imagination : emotions directed towards real 
objects may thus, even if the object be inferior, claim 
equality with the highest imaginative pleasures. . .198 

121. Finally (4) with regard to the objects of the cognition which is 

essential to these good wholes, it is the business of Aesthetics 
to analyse their nature : it need only be here remarked 
(1) that, by calling them 'beautiful,' we mean that they have 
this relation to a good whole ; and (2) that they are, for the 
most part, themselves complex wholes, such that the ad- 



miring contemplation of the whole greatly exceeds in value 
the sum of the values of the admiring contemplation of the 
parts. . . -. ............... 200 

122. With regard to II. Personal Affection, the object is here not 

merely beautiful but also good in itself ; it appears, however, 
that the appreciation of what is thus good in itself, viz. the 
mental qualities of a person, is certainly, by itself, not so 
great a good as the whole formed by the combination with 
it of an appreciation of corporeal beauty ; it is doubtful 
whether it is even so great a good as the mere appreciation 
of corporeal beauty ; but it is certain that the combination 
of both is a far greater good than either singly. . . . 203 

123. It follows from what has been said that we have every reason 

to suppose that a cognition of material qualities, and even 
their existence, is an essential constituent of the Ideal or 
Summum Bonum : there is only a bare possibility that they 
are not included in it 205 

124. It remains to consider positive evils and mixed goods. I. Evils 

may be divided into three classes, namely .... 207 

125. (1) evils which consist in the love, or admiration, or enjoy- 

ment of what is evil or ugly 208 

126. (2) evils which consist in the hatred or contempt of what is 

good or beautiful .211 

127. and (3) the consciousness of intense pain : this appears to be 

the only thing, either greatly good or greatly evil, which does 
not involve both a cognition and an emotion directed towards 
its object ; and hence it is not analogous to pleasure in 
respect of its intrinsic value, while it also seems not to add to 
the vileness of a whole, as a whole, in which it is combined 
with another bad thing, whereas pleasure does add to the 
goodness of a whole, in which it is combined with another 
good thing ; 212 

128. but pleasure and pain are completely analogous in this, that 

pleasure by no means always increases, and pain by no 
means always decreases, the total value of a whole in which 
it is included : the converse is often true 213 

129. In order to consider II. Mixed Goods, we must first distinguish 

between (1) the value of a whole as a whole, and (2) its value 
on the whole or total value: (l) = the difference between (2) 
and the sum of the values of the parts. In view of this dis- 
tinction, it then appears : 214 

130. (1) That the mere combination of two or more evils is never 

positively good on the whole, although it may certainly have 
great intrinsic value as a whole ; 216 



131. but (2) That a whole which includes a cognition of something 

evil or ugly may yet be a great positive good on the whole : 
most virtues, which have any intrinsic value whatever, seem 
to be of this kind, e.g. (a) courage and compassion, and 
(6) moral goodness ; all these are instances of the hatred or 
contempt of what is evil or ugly ; 216 

132. but there seems no reason to think that, where the evil object 

exists, the total state of things is ever positively good on the 
whole, although the existence of the evil may add to its 
value as a whole 219 

133. Hence (1) no actually existing evil is necessary to the Ideal, 

(2) the contemplation of imaginary evils is necessary to it, 
and (3) where evils already exist, the existence of mixed 
virtues has a value independent both of its consequences 
and of the value which it has in common with the proper 
appreciation of imaginary evils 220 

134. Concluding remarks. 222 

135. Summary of chapter. 224 



1. IT is very easy to point out some among our every-day 
judgments, with the .truth of which Ethics is undoubtedly 
concerned. Whenever we say, 'So and so is a good man/ or 
' That fellow is a villain ' ; whenever we ask, ' What ought I to 
do ? ' or 'Is it wrong for me to do like this ? ' ; whenever we 
hazard such remarks as ' Temperance is a virtue and drunken- 
ness a vice ' it is undoubtedly the business of Ethics to discuss 
such questions and such statements ; to argue what is the true 
answer when we ask what it is right to do, and to give reasons 
for thinking that our statements about the character of persons 
oi- the morality of actions are true or false. In the vast majority 
of cases, where we make statements involving any of the terms 
' virtue/ ' vice/ ' duty/ ' right/ ' ought/ ' good/ ' bad/ we are 
making ethical judgments; and if we wish to discuss their 
truth, we shall be discussing a point of Ethics. 

So much as this is not disputed ; but it falls very far short 
x of defining the province of Ethics. That province may indeed 
be denned as the whole truth about that which is at the same 
time common to all such judgments and peculiar to them. But 
we have still to ask the question : What is it that is thus 
common and peculiar ? And this is a question to which very 
different answers have been given by ethical philosophers of 
acknowledged reputation, and none of them, perhaps, completely 

2. If we take such examples as those given above, we shall 
not be far wrong in saying that they are all of them concerned 

M. 1 


with the question of 'conduct' with the question, what, in the 
conduct of us, human beings, is good, and what is bad, what is 
right, and what is wrong. For when we say that a man is good, 
we commonly mean that he acts rightly; when we say that 
drunkenness is a vice, we commonly mean that to get drunk is 
a wrong or wicked action. And this discussion of human con- 
duct is, in fact, that with which the name ' Ethics ' is most 
intimately associated. It is so associated by derivation; and 
conduct is undoubtedly by far the commonest and most generally 
interesting object of ethical judgments. 

Accordingly, we find that many ethical philosophers are 
disposed to accept as an adequate definition of ' Ethics ' the 
statement that it deals with the question what is good or bad 
in human conduct. They hold that its enquiries are properly 
confined to ' conduct ' or to ' practice ' ; they hold that the name 
' practical philosophy ' covers all the matter with which it has 
to do. Now, without discussing the proper meaning of the 
word (for verbal questions are properly left to the writers of 
dictionaries and other persons interested in literature; philo- 
sophy, as we shall see, has no concern with them), I may say 
that I intend to use ' Ethics ' to cover more than this a usage, 
for which there is, I think, quite sufficient authority. I am 
using it to cover an enquiry for which, at all events, there is no 
other word : the general enquiry into what is good. 

Ethics is undoubtedly concerned with the question what 
good conduct is; but, being concerned with this, it obviously 
does not start at the beginning, unless it is prepared to tell us 
what is good as well as what is conduct. For ' good conduct ' is 
a complex notion : all conduct is not good ; for some is certainly 
bad and some may be indifferent. And on the other hand, 
other things, beside conduct, may be good ; and if they are so, 
then, 'good' denotes some property, that is common to them 

^ and conduct ; and if we examine good conduct alone of all good 
things, then we shall be in danger of mistaking for this property, 
some property which is not shared by those other things : and 
thus we shall have made a mistake about Ethics even in this 
limited sense ; for we shall not know what good conduct really 

__ is. This is a mistake which many writers have actually made, 


from limiting their enquiry to conduct. And hence I shall try 
to avoid it by considering first what is good in general ; hoping, 
that if we can arrive at any certainty about this, it will be much 
easier to settle the question of good conduct : for we all know 
pretty well what ' conduct ' is. This, then, is our first question : 
What is good ? and What is bad ? and to the discussion of this 
question (of these questions) I give the name of Ethics, since 
that science must, at all events, include it. 

3. But this is a question which may have many meanings. 
If, for example, each of us were to say ' I am doing good now ' 
or 'I had a good dinner yesterday,' these statements would each 
of them be some sort of answer to our question, although 
perhaps a false one. So, too, when A asks B what school he 
ought to send his son to, B's answer will certainly be an ethical 
v judgment. And similarly all distribution of praise or blame to 
any personage or thing that has existed, now exists, or will 
exist, does give some answer to the question ' What is good ? ' 
In all such cases some particular thing is judged to be good or 
bad : the question ' What ? ' is answered by ' This.' But this is 
not the sense in which a scientific Ethics asks the question. Not 
one, of all the many million answers of this kind, which must be 
true, can form a part of an ethical system ; although that science 
must contain reasons and principles sufficient for deciding on 
the truth of all of them. There are far top many persons, things 
and events in the world, past, present, or to come, for a dis- 
cussion of their individual merits to be embraced in any science. 
Ethics, therefore, does not deal at all with facts of this nature, 
facts that are unique, individual, absolutely particular; facts 
with which such studies as history, geography, astronomy, are 
compelled, in part at least, to deal. And, for this reason, it is 
not the business of the ethical philosopher to give personal 
advice or exhortation. 

4. But there is another meaning which may be given to 
the question ' What is good ? ' ' Books are good ' would be an 
answer to it, though an answer obviously false ; for some books 
are very bad indeed. And ethical judgments of this kind do 
indeed belong to Ethics ; though I shall not deal with many of 
them. Such is the judgment 'Pleasure is good' a judgment, 



of which Ethics should discuss the truth, although it is not 
nearly as important as that other judgment, with which we shall 
be much occupied presently ' Pleasure alone is good.' It is 
judgments of this sort, which are made in such books on Ethics 
as contain a list of 'virtues' in Aristotle's 'Ethics' for example. 
But it is judgments of precisely the same kind, which form the 
substance of what is commonly supposed to be a study different 
from Ethics, and one much less respectable the study of 
^Casujgtoy.. We may be told that Casuistry differs from Ethics, 
in that it is much more detailed and particular, Ethics much 
more general. But it is most important to notice that Casuistry 
does not deal with anything that is absolutely particular 
particular in the only sense in which a perfectly precise line can 
be drawn between it and what is general. It is not particular 
in the sense just noticed, the sense in which this book is a 
particular book, and A's friend's advice particular advice. 
Casuistry may indeed be more particular and Ethics more 
general; but that means that they differ only in degree and 
not in kind. And this is universally true of 'particular' and 
' general,' when used in this common, but inaccurate, sense. So 
far as Ethics allows itself to give lists of virtues or even to name 
constituents of the Ideal, it is indistinguishable from Casuistry. 
Both alike deal with what is general, in the sense in which 
physics and chemistry deal with what is general. Just as 
chemistry aims at discovering what are the properties of oxygen, 
wherever it occurs, and not only of this or that particular speci- 
i men of oxygen ; so Casuistry 

are good, whenever theyj)ccur. In this respect Ethics and 
Casuistry aliEeTare to be classed with such sciences as physics, 
chemistry and physiology, in their absolute distinction from 
those of which history and geography are instances. And it is 
to be noted that, owing to their detailed nature, casuistical in- 
vestigations are actually nearer to physics and to chemistry 
than are the investigations usually assigned to Ethics. For just 
as physics cannot rest content with the discovery that light is 
propagated by waves of ether, but must go on to discover the 
particular nature of the ether- waves corresponding to each 
several colour ; so Casuistry, not content with the general law 



that charity is a virtue, must_attempt to d^cjiYr-JJi_relative 
merits gf^gvery ^rffefe^t^form^oFjgharity. Casuistry forms, 
therefore, part oFtfKTideal of ethical science : Ethics cannot be 
complete without it. The defects of Casuistry are not defects 
of principle ; no objection can be taken to its aim and object. 
It has failed only because it is far too difficult a subject to be 
treated adequately in our present state of knowledge. The 
casuist has been unable to distinguish, in the cases which he 
treats, those elements upon which their value depends. Hence 
he often thinks two cases to be alike in respect of value, when 
in reality they are alike only in some other respect. It is to 
mistakes of this kind that the pernicious influence of such 
investigations has been due. For Casuistry is the goal of 
ethical investigation. It cannot be safely attempted at the 
beginning of our studies, but only at the end. 

5. But our question 'What is good?' may have still another 
meaning. We may, in the third place, mean to ask, not what 
thing or things are good, but how 'good' is to be drtiiifd. This 
is an enquiry which belongs only to Ethics, not to Casuistry"; " , ***if 
and this is the enquiry which will occupy us first. \ 

It is an enquiry to which most special attention should be '.y 4, 
directed; since this question, how 'good' is .to be (fefiped,. is the v fe v 
most fuii(l;iiiiciit;il <|iK-stioii in all Ethics. That which is meantV tr \- 
by 'good' is, in fact, except its converse 'bad,' the only simple Lo 
object of thought which is peculiar to Ethics. Its definition is, 
therefore, the most, ppsentiaj_ point in the definition of Ethics ; 
and moreover a mistake with regard to it entails a far larger 
number of erroneous ethical judgments than any other. Unless 
this first question be fully understood, and its true answer clearly 
recognised, the rest of Ethics is as good as useless from the point 
of view of systematic knowledge. True ethical judgments, of"" 
the two kinds last dealt with, may indeed be made by those who 
do not know the answer to this question as well as by those 
who do; and it goes without saying that the two classes of 
people may lead equally good lives. But it is extremely unlikely 
that the most general ethical judgments will be equally valid, in 
the absence of a true answer to this question : I shall presently 
try to shew that the gravest errors have been largely due to 


beliefs in a false answer. And, in any case, it is impossible that, 
till the answer to this question be known, any one should know 
what is the evidence for any ethical judgment whatsoever. But 
the main object of Ethics, as a systematic science, is to give 

\y correct reasons for thinking that this or that is good; and, 
unless this question be answered, such reasons cannot be given. 
Even, therefore, apart from the fact that a false answer leads to 
false conclusions, the present enquiry is a most necessary and 
important part of the science of Ethics. 

6. What, then, is good ? How is good to be defined ? Now, 
it may be thought that this is a verbal question. A definition 
does indeed often mean the expressing of one word's meaning 
in other words. But this is not the sort of definition I am 
asking for. Such a definition can never be of ultimate impor- 
tance in any study except lexicography. If I wanted that kind 
of definition I should have to consider in the first place how 
people generally used the word ' good ' ; but my business is not 
with its proper usage, as established by custom. I should, in- 
deed, be foolish, if I tried to use it for something which it did 
not usually denote : if, for instance, I were to announce that, 
whenever I used the word ' good,' I must be understood to be 
thinking of that object which is usually denoted by the word 
' table.' I shall, therefore, use the word in the sense in which 
I think it is ordinarily used ; but at the same time I am not 
anxious to discuss whether I am right in thinking that it is 
so used. My business is solely with that object or idea, which 
I hold, rightly or wrongly, that the word is generally used to 
stand for. What I want to discover is the nature of that object 
or idea, and about this I am extremely anxious to arrive at an 

But, if we understand the question in this sense, my answer 
to it may seem a very disappointing one. If I am asked ' What 
is good ?' my answer is that_good is good, and that is the end 
of the matter. Or if I am asked ' How is good to be defined ? ' 

-v / my answer is that it cannot be defined, and that is all I have to 
say about it. But disappointing as these answers may appear, 
they are of the very last importance. To readers who are 
familiar with philosophic terminology, I can express their im- 


portance by saying that they amount to this : That propositions 
about the good are all of them synthetic and never analytic ; 
and that is plainly no trivial matter. And the same thing may 
be expressed more popularly, by saying that, if I am right, then 
nobody can foist upon us such an axiom as that ' Pleasure is the 
only good ' or that ' The good is the desired ' on the pretence 
that this is ' the very meaning of the word.' 

7. Let us, then, consider this position. My point is that 
' is a simple notion, just as 'yellow' is a simple notion; 
that, just as you cannot, by any manner of means, explain to 
any one who does not already know it, what yellow is, so you 
cannot explain what good is. Definitions of the kind that I 
was asking for, definitions which describe the real nature of the 
object or notion denoted by a word, and which do not merely 
tell us what the word is used to moan, are only possible when 
the object or notion in question is something complex. You 
can give a definition of a horse, because a horse has many 
different properties and qualities, all of which you can enume- 

1 rate. But when you have enumerated them all, when you have 
reduced a horse to his simplest terms, then you can no longer 

.define those terms. They are simply something which you 
I think of or perceive, and to any one who cannot think of or 
Iperceive them, you can never, by any definition, make their 
nature known. It may perhaps be objected to this that we are 
able to describe to others, objects which they have never seen 
>r thought of. We can, for instance, make a man understand 
what a chimaera is, although he has never heard of one or seen 

none. You can tell him that it is an animal with a lioness's 

Shead and body, with a goat's head growing from the middle 
of its back, and with a snake in place of a tail. But here 
the object which you are describing is a complex object ; it is 

/entirely composed of parts, with which we are all perfectly 
familiar a snake, a goat, a lioness; and we know, too, the 
manner in which those parts are to be put together, because 
we know what is meant by the middle of a lioness's back, and 
where her tail is wont to grow. And so it is with all objects, 
not previously known, which we are able to define : they are all 
complex ; all composed of parts, which may themselves, in the 


first instance, be capable of similar definition, but which must 
in the end be reducible to simplest parts, which can no longer 
be defined. Rut yellow and good, we say, are not complex :|, 
they are notions of that simple kind, out of which definitions 
are composed and with which the power of further defining 

8. When we say, as Webster says, ' The definition of horse 
is " A hoofed quadruped of the genus Equus," ' we may, in fact, 
mean three different things. (1) We may mean merely: 'When 
I say " horse," you are to understand that I am talking about 
a hoofed quadruped of the genus Equus.' This might be called 
the 'arbitrary verbal definition : and I do not mean that good is 
indefinable in that sense. (2) We may mean, as Webster ought 
to mean : ' When most English people say " horse," they mean 
a hoofed quadruped of the genus Equus.' This may be called 
the verbal definition proper, and I do not say that good is 
indefinable in this sense either; for it is certainly possible to 
discover how people use a word : otherwise, we could never 
have known that ' good ' may be translated by ' gut ' in German 
and by ' bon ' in French. But (3) we may, when we define 
horse, mean something much more important. We may im-an 
that a certain object, which we all of us know, is composed in 
a certain manner : that it has four legs, a head, a heart, a liver, 
etc., etc., all of them arranged in definite relations to one 
another. It is in this sense that I deny good to be definable. 
I say that it is not composed of any parts, which we can sub- 
stitute for it in our minds when we are thinking of it. We 
might think just as clearly and correctly about a horse, if we 
thought of all its parts and their arrangement instead of thinking 
of the whole : we could, I say, think how a horse differed from 
a donkey just as well, just as truly, in this way, as now we do, 
only not so easily ; but there is nothing whatsoever which we 
could so substitute for good ; and that is what I mean, when 
I say that good is indefinable. 

9. But I am- afraid I have still not removed the chief 
difficulty which may prevent acceptance of the proposition that 
good is indefinable. I do not mean to say that the good, that 
which is good, is thus indefinable ; if I did think so, I should not 


be writing on Ethics, for my main object is to help towards 
discovering that definition. It is just because I think there 
will be less risk of error in our search for a definition of ' the 
good,' that I am now insisting that good is indefinable. I must 
try to explain the difference between these two. I suppose it 
may be granted that 'good' is an adjective. Well 'the good,' 
,' that which is good/ must therefore be the substantive to which 
the adjective 'good' will apply: it must be the whole of that to 
which the adjective will apply, and the adjective must always 
' truly apply to it. But if it is that to which the adjective will 
apply, it must be something different from that adjective itself; 
and the whole of that something different, whatever it is, will 
be our definition of the good. Now it may be that this some- 
thing will have other adjectives, beside ' good,' that will apply 
to it. It may be full of .pleasure^ for example ; it may be 

y intelligent : and if these two adjectives are really part of its 
definition, then it will certainly be true, that pleasure and in- 
telligence are good. And many people appear to think that, 
if we say ' Pleasure and intelligence are good,' or if we say 
nly pleasure and intelligence are good,' we are defining 'good.' 
Well, I cannot deny that propositions of this nature may some- 

[ times be called definitions; I do not know well enough how 
the word is generally used to decide upon this point. I only 
wish it to be understood that that is not what I mean when 

/ 1 say there is no possible definition of good, and that I shall 
not mean this if I use the word again. I do most fully believe 
that some true proposition of the form ' Intelligence is good 
and intelligence alone is good ' can be found ; if none could be 
found, our definition of the good would be impossible. As it is, 
I believe the good to be definable ; and yet I still say that good 
itself is indefinable. 

~ 10. 'Good,' then A ifjwe mean by it that quality which we 
assert to 1 , belongto a thing, frhen we say that the thing is good, 
is incapable l>f any definition, in the most important sense of 
that word. The most important sense of ' definition ' is that in 
which a definition states what are the parts which invariably 
compose a certain whole; and in this sense 'good' has no 
definition because it is simple and has no parts. It is one of 



those innumerable objects of thought which are themselves 
incapable of definition, because they are the ultimate terms by 
reference .to which whatever is capable of definition must be 

defined. That there must be an indefinite number of such 


terms is obvious, on reflection; since we cannot define anything 
except by an analysis, which, when carried as far as it will go, 
refers us to something, which is simply different from anything 
else, and which by that ultimate difference explains the pecu- 
liarity of the whole which-we are-defining: for every whole 
contains some parts which are common to other wholes also. 
There is, therefore, no intrinsic difficulty in the contention that 
' good ' denotes a simple and indefinable quality. There are 
many other instances of such qualities. 

Consider yellow, for example. We may try to define it, by 
describing its physical equivalent ; we may state what kind of 
light-vibrations must stimulate the normal eye, in order that 
we may perceive it. But a moment's reflection is sufficient to 
shew that those light- vibrations are not themselves what we 
mean by yellow. They are not what we perceive. Indeed we 
should never have been able to discover their existence, unless 
we had first been struck by the patent difference of quality 
between the different colours. The most we can be entitled 
to say of those vibrations is that they are what corresponds in 
space to the yellow which we actually perceive. 

Yet a mistake of this simple kind has commonly been made 
about ' good.' It may be true that all things which are good 
are also something else, just as it is true that all things which 
are yellow produce a certain kind of vibration in the light. 
And it is a fact, that Ethics aims at discovering what are those 
Bother properties belonging to all things which are good. But 
far too many philosophers have thought that when they named 
those other properties they were actually defining good ; that 
these properties, in fact, were simply._not 'other,' but absolutely 
and entirely the same with goodness. This view I propose to 
call the 'naturalistic fallacy' and of it I shall now endeavour 
to dispose. 

11. Let us consider what it is such philosophers say. And 
first it is to be noticed that they do not agree among themselves. 


They not only say that they are right as to what good is, but 

they endeavour to prove that other people who say that it is M 

something else, are wrong. One, for instance, will affirm that 

? good is pleasure, another, perhaps, that good is that which is 

. desired; and each of these will argue eagerly to prove that the 

. other is wrong. But how is that possible ? One of them says 

that good is nothing but the object of desire, and at the same 

time tries to prove that it is not pleasure. But from his first 

assertion, that good just means the object of desire, one of two 

things must follow as regards his proof: 

(1) He may be trying to prove that the object of desire is 
-'not pleasure. But, if this be all, where is his Ethics? The 

position he is maintaining is merely a psychological one. Desire 
isjsomething which occurs in our minds, and pleasure is some- 
thing else which so occurs; and our would-be ethical philosopher 
is merely holding that the latter is not the object of the former. 
But what has that to do with the question in dispute? His 
opponent held the ethical proposition that pleasure was the 
good, and although he should prove a million times over the 
psychological proposition that pleasure is not the object of desire, 
he is no nearer proving his opponent to be wrong. The position 
is like this. One man says a triangle is a circle : another replies 
'A triangle is a straight line, ahdXwill prove to you that I am 
right: for' (this is the only argument) 'a straight line is not a 
circle.' 'That is quite true,' the other may reply; 'but never- 
theless a triangle is a circle, and you have said nothing whatever 
to prove the contrary. What is proved is that one of us is 
wrong, for we agree that a triangle cannot be both a straight 
line and a circle: but which is wrong, there can be no earthly 
means of proving, since you define triangle as straight line and 
^ I define it as circle.' Well, that is one alternative which any 
naturalistic Ethics has to face; if good is defined as something | 
else, it is then impossible either to prove that any other 
definition is wrong or even to deny such definition. 

(2) The other alternative will scarcely be more welcome. 
It is that the discussion is after all a verbal one. When A says 
'Good means pleasant' and B says 'Good means desired,' they 
may merely wish to assert that most people have used the word 


for what is pleasant and for what is desired respectively. And 
this is quite an interesting subject for discussion: only it is not 
a whit more an ethical discussion than the last was. Nor do I 
think that any exponent of naturalistic Ethics would be willing 
to allow that this was all he meant. They are all so anxious to 
persuade us that what they call the good is what we really 
ought to do. 'Do, pray, act so, because the word "good" is 
generally used to denote actions of this nature': such, on this 
view, would be the substance of their teaching. And in so far 
as they tell us how we ought to act, their teaching is truly 
ethical, as they mean it to be. But how perfectly absurd is the 
reason they would give for it! 'You are to do this, because 
most people use a certain word to denote conduct such as this.' 
'You are to say the thing which is not, because most people 
call it lying.' That is an argument just as good ! My dear 
sirs, what we want to know from you as ethical teachers, is not 
how people use a word; it is not even, what kind of actions 
they approve, which the use of this word 'good' may certainly 
imply: what we want to know is simply what is good. We 
may indeed agree that what most people do think good, is 
actually so; we shall at all events be glad to know their 
opinions: but when we say their opinions about what is good, 
we do mean what we say; we do not care whether they call 
that thing which they mean 'horse' or 'table' or 'chair,' 'gut' 
or 'bon' or 'dyaOos'; we want to know what it is that they so 
call. When they say 'Pleasure is good,' we cannot believe 
that they merely mean 'Pleasure is pleasure' and nothing more 
than that. 

12. Suppose a man says 'I am pleased'; and suppose that 
is not a lie or a mistake but the truth. Well, if it is true, what 
does that mean? \ It means that his mind, a certain definite 
mind, distinguished by certain definite marks from all others, 
has at this moment a certain definite feeling called pleasure. 
'Pleased' means nothing but having pleasure, and though we 
may be more pleased or less pleased, and even, we may admit 
for the present, have one or another kind of pleasure ; yet in so 
far as it is pleasure we have, whether there be more or less 
of it, and whether it be of one kind or another, what we have is 


one definite thing, absolutely indefinable, some one thing that 
is the same in all the various degrees and in all the various 
kinds of it that there may be. We may be able to say how it is 
related to other things: that, for example, it is in the mind, 
that it causes desire, that we are conscious of it, etc., etc. We 
can, I say, describe its relations to other things, but define it we 
can not. And if anybody tried to define pleasure for us as 
being any other natural object; if anybody were to say, for 
instance, that pleasure means the sensation of red, and were to 
proceed to deduce from that that pleasure is a colour, we should 
be entitled to laugh at him and to distrust his future statements 
about pleasure. Well, that would be the same fallacy which I 
have called the naturalistic fallacy. T^at, * pi paged 'floes pot 
sensation of red,' or anything else whatever, 

does not prevent us from understanding what it does mean. It 
is enough for us to know that ' pleased' does mean 'having the 
sensation of pleasure,' and though pleasure is absolutely in- 
definable, though pleasure is pleasure and nothing else whatever, 
yet we feel no difficulty in saying that we are pleased. The 
reason is, of course, that when I say 'I am pleased^! do not 
mean that 'I' am the same thing as 'having pleasure.' And 

^^^S^^ > ^"^ Bl ^*^i*^^^^M^^i^^"^^iB^iB^^B>WW^'*^ ^"**^"^^^^^^*^^^^ 

similarly no difficulty need be found in my saying that 'pleasure 
is good' and yet not meaning that 'pleasure' is the 
as 'good,' that pleasure means good, and that good means 
pleasure. If I were to imagine that when I said 'I am pleased,' " 
I meant that I was exactly the same thing as 'pleased,' I should 
not indeed call that a naturalistic fallacy, although it would be 
the same fallacy as I have called naturalistic with reference to 
Ethics. The reason of this is obvious enough. When a man 
confuses two natural objects with one another, defining the one, 
by the other, if for instance, he confuses himself, who is one 
natural object, with 'pleased' or with 'pleasure' which are 
others, then there is no reason to call the fallacy naturalistic. 
But if he confuses 'good,' which is not in the same sense a 
natural object, with any natural object whatever, then there is 
a reason for calling that a naturalistic fallacy; its being made 
with regard to 'good' marks it as something quite specific, and 
this specific mistake deserves a name because it is so common. 




As for the reasons why good is not to be considered a natural 
object, they may be reserved for discussion in another place. 
But, for the present, it is sufficient to notice this: Even if it 
were a natural object, that would not alter the nature of the 
fallacy nor diminish its importance one whit. All that I have 
said about it would remain quite equally true : only the name 
which I have called it would not be so appropriate as I think it 
is. And I do not care about the name: what I do care about 
is the fallacy. It does not matter what we call it, provided we 
recognise it when we meet with it. It is to be met with in 
almost every book on Ethics; and yet it is not recognised: and 
that is why it is necessary to multiply illustrations of it, and 
convenient to give it a name. It is a very simple fallacy indeed. 
When we say that an orange is yellow, we do not think our 
statement binds us to hold that 'orange' means nothing else 
than 'yellow,' or that nothing can be yellow but an orange. 
Supposing the orange is also sweet ! Does that bind us to say 
that 'sweet' is exactly the same thing as 'yellow,' that 'sweet' 
must be defined as 'yellow'? And supposing it be recognised 
that 'yellow' just means 'yellow' and nothing else whatever, 
does that make it any more difficult to hold that oranges are 
yellow? Most certainly it does not: on the contrary, it would 
be absolutely meaningless to say that oranges were yellow, 
unless yellow did in the end mean just 'yellow' and nothing 
else whatever unless it was absolutely indefinable. We should 
not get any very clear notion about things, which are yellow 
we should not get very far with our science, if we were bound 
to hold that everything which was yellow, meant exactly the 
same thing as yellow. We should find we had to hold that an 
orange was exactly the same thing as a stool, a piece of paper, 
a lemon, anything you like. We could prove any number of 
absurdities; but should we be the nearer to the truth? Why, 
then, should it be different with 'good'? Why, if good is good 
and indefinable, should I be held to deny that pleasure is good ? 
Is there any difficulty in holding both to be true at once? On 
the contrary, there is no meaning in saying that pleasure is good, 
unless good is something different from pleasure. It is absolutely 
useless, so far as Ethics is concerned, to prove, as Mr Spencer 


tries to do, that increase of pleasure coincides with increase of 
life, unless good means something different from either life or 
pleasure. He might just as well try to prove that an orange is 
yellow by shewing that it always is wrapped up in paper. 

13. In fact, if it is not the case that ' good ' denotes some- 
thing simple and indefinable, only two alternatives are possible : 
either it is a complex, a given whole, about the correct analysis 
of which there may be disagreement ; or else it means nothing 
at all, and there is no such subject as Ethics. In general, how- 
ever, ethical philosophers have attempted to define good, without 
recognising what such an attempt must mean. They actually 
use arguments which involve one or both of the absurdities 
considered in 11. We are, therefore} justified in concluding 
that the attempt to define good is chieHy due to want of clear- 
ness as to the possible nature of definition. There are, in fact, 
only two serious alternatives to be considered, in order to 
establish the conclusion that ' good ' does denote a simple and 
indefinable notion. It might possibly denote a complex, as 
' horse ' does ; or it might have no meaning at all. Neither of 
these possibilities has, however, been clearly conceived and 
seriously maintained, as such, by those who presume to define 
good ; and both may be dismissed by a simple appeal to facts. 

(1) The hypothesis that disagreement about the meaning 
of good is disagreement with regard to the correct analysis of a 
given whole, may be most plainly seen to be incorrect by con- 
sideration of the fact that, whatever definition be offered, it may 
be always asked, with .significance, of tfie complex so defined, 
whether it is itself good. To take, for instance, one of the more 
plausible, because one of the more complicated, of such proposed 
definitions, it may easily be thought, at first sight, that to be 
good may mean to be that which we desire to desire. Thus 
if we apply this definition to a particular instance and say 
' When we think that A is good, we are thinking that A is one 
of the things which we desire to desire,' our proposition may 
seem quite plausible. But, if we carry the investigation further, 
and ask ourselves ' Ia_it good to desire to desire A-?' it is 
apparent, on a little reflection, that this question is itself as 
intelligible, as the original question 'Is A good?' that we are, 


in fact, now asking for exactly the same information about the 
desire to desire A, for which we formerly asked with regard to A 
itself. But it is also apparent that the meaning of this second 
question cannot be correctly analysed into ' Is the desire to 
desire A one of the things which we desire to desire ?': we have 
not before our minds anything so complicated as the question 
'Do we desire to desire to desire to desire A ?' Moreover any 
one can easily convince himself by inspection that the predicate 
of this proposition ' good ' is positively different from the 
notion of 'desiring to desire' which enters into its subject: 
' That we should desire to desire A is good ' is not merely 
equivalent to 'That A should be good is good.' It may indeed 
be true that what we desire to desire is always also good ; 
perhaps, even the converse may be true : but it is very doubtful 
whether this is the case, and the mere fact that we understand 
very well what is meant by doubting it, shows clearly that we 
have two different notions before our minds. 

(2) And the same consideration is sufficient to dismiss the 
hypothesis that ' good ' has no meaning whatsoever. It is very 
natural to make the mistake of supposing that what is uni- 
versally true is of such a nature that its negation would be 
self-contradictory : the importance which has been assigned to 
analytic propositions in the history of philosophy shews how 
easy such a mistake is. And thus it is very easy to conclude 
that what seems to be a universal ethical principle is in fact an 
identical proposition ; that, if, for example, whatever is called 
'good' seems to be pleasant, the proposition 'Pleasure is the 
good' does not assert a connection between two different notions, 
but involves only one, that of pleasure, which is easily recognised 
as a distinct entity. But whoever will attentively consider with 
himself what is actually before his mind when he asks the 
question ' Is pleasure (or whatever it may be) after all good ? ' 
can easily satisfy himself that he is not merely wondering 
whether pleasure is pleasant. And if he will try this experiment 
with each suggested definition in succession, he may become 
expert enough to recognise that in every case he has before his 
mind a unique object, with regard to the connection of which 
with any other object, a distinct question may be asked. Every 


one does in feet understand the question 'Is this good?' When 
he thinks of it, his state of mind is different from what it would 
be, were he asked ' Is this pleasant, or desired, or approved ? ' 
It has a distinct meaning for him, even though he may not 
recognise in what respect it is distinct. Whenever he thinks of 
' intrinsic value,' or ' intrinsic worth,' or says that a thing 'ought 
to exist,' he has before his mind the unique object the unique 
property of things which I mean by 'good.' Everybody is 
constantly aware of this notion, although he may never become 
aware at all that it is different from other notions of which he 
is also aware. But, for correct ethical reasoning, it is extremely 
important that he should become aware of this fact; and, as 
soon as the nature of the problem is clearly understood, there 
should be little difficulty in advancing so far in analysis. 

14. 'Good/ then, is indefinable; and yet, so far as I know, 
there is only one ethical writer, Prof. Henry Sidgwick, who has 
clearly recognised and stated this fact. We shall see, indeed, 
how far many of the most reputed ethical systems fall short of 
drawing the conclusions which follow Irom such a recognition. 
At present I will only quote one instance, which will serve to 
illustrate the meaning and importance of this principle that 
' good ' is indefinable, or, as Prof. Sidgwick says, an 'unanalysable 
notion.' It is an instance to which Prof. Sidgwick himself 
refers in a note on the passage, in which he argues that 'ought' 
is unanalysable 1 . 

'Bentham,' says Sidgwick, 'explains that his fundamental 
principle " states the greatest happiness of all those whose 
interest is in question as being the right and proper end of 
human action "'; and yet ' his language in other passages of the 
same chapter would seem to imply' that he means by the word 
" right " " conducive to the general happiness." Prof. Sidgwick 
sees that, if you take these two statements together, you get 
the absurd result that ' greatest happiness is the end of human 
action, which is conducive to the general happiness ; and so 
absurd does it seem to him to call this result, as Bentham calls 
it, ' the fundamental principle of a moral system,' that he sug- 
gests that Bentham cannot have meant it. Yet Prof. Sidgwick 

1 Methodt of Ethics, Bk. i, Chap, iii, 1 (6th edition). 
M. 2 


himself states elsewhere 1 that Psychological Hedonism is 
'not seldom confounded with Egoistic Hedonism'; and that 
confusion/ as we shall see, rests chiefly on that same fallacy, 
the naturalistic fallacy, which is implied in Bencham's state- 
ments. Prof. Sidgwick admits therefore that this fallacy is 
sometimes committed, absurd as it is; and I am inclined to 
think that Bentham may really have been one of those who 
committed it. Mill, as we shall see, certainly did commit it. 
In any case, whether Bentham committed it or not, his doctrine, 
as above quoted, will serve as a very good illustration of this 
fallacy, and of the importance of the contrary proposition that 
good is indefinable. 

Let us consider this doctrine. Bentham seems to imply, so 
Prof. Sidgwick says, that the word ' right ' means ' conducive to 
general happiness.' Now this, by itself, need not necessarily 
involve the naturalistic fallacy. For the word 'right' is very 
commonly appropriated to actions which lead to the attainment 
of what is good ; which are regarded as means to the ideal and 
not as ends-in-themselves. This use of 'right,' as denoting 
what is good as a means, whether or not it be also good as 
an end, is indeed the use to which I shall confine the word. 
Had Bentham been using ' right ' in this sense, it might be 
perfectly consistent for him to define right as ' conducive to the 
general happiness,' provided only (and notice this proviso) he 
had already proved, or laid down as an axiom, that general 
happiness was the good, or (what is equivalent to this) that 
general happiness alone was good. For in that case he would 
have already defined the good as general happiness (a position 
perfectly consistent, as we have seen, with the contention that 
' good ' is indefinable), and, since right was to be defined as 
' conducive to the good,' it would actually mean ' conducive to / 
general happiness.' But this method of escape from the charge 
of having committed the naturalistic fallacy has been closed by 
Bentham himself. For his fundamental principle is, we see, 
that the greatest happiness of all concerned is the right and 
proper end of human action. He applies the word 'right,' there- 
fore, to the end, as such, not only to the means which are 

1 Methods of Ethics, Bk. i, Chap, iv, 1. 


conducive to it; and, that being so. right can no longer be 
defined as 'conducive to the general happiness,' without in- 
volving the fallacy in question. For now it is obvious that the 
definition of right as conducive to general happiness can be used 
by him in support of the fundamental principle that general 
happiness is the right end ; instead of being itself derived from 
that principle. If right, by definition, means conducive to 
general happiness, then it is obvious that general happiness 
is the right end. It is not necessary now first to prove or 
assert that general happiness is the right end, before right 
is defined as conducive to general happiness a perfectly valid 
procedure ; but on the contrary the definition of right as con- 
ducive to general happiness proves general happiness to be the 
right end a perfectly invalid procedure, since in this case the 
statement that 'general happiness is the right end of human 
action ' is not an ethical principle at all, but either, as we have 
seen, a proposition about the meaning of words, or else a 
proposition about the nature of general happiness, not about its 
Tightness or goodness. 

Now, I do not wish the importance I assign to this fallacy 
to be misunderstood. The discovery of it does not at all refute 
Bentham's contention that greatest happiness is the proper 
end of human action, if that be understood as an ethical 
proposition, as he undoubtedly intended it. That principle 
may be true all the same ; we shall consider whether it is so in 
succeeding chapters. Bentham might have maintained it, as 
Professor Sidgwick does, even if the fallacy had been pointed 
out to him. What I am maintaining is that the reasons which 
he actually gives for his ethical proposition are fallacious ones 
so far as they consist in a definition of right. What I suggest 
is that he did not perceive them to be fallacious; that, if 
he had done so, he would have been led to seek for other 
reasons in support of his Utilitarianism ; and that, had he 
sought for other reasons, he might have found none which he 
thought to be sufficient. In that case he would have changed 
his whole system a most important consequence. It is un- 
doubtedly also possible that he would have thought other 
'reasons to be sufficient, and in that case his ethical system, 



in its main results, would still have stood. But, even in this 
latter case, his use of the fallacy would be a serious objection to 
him as an ethical philosopher. For it is the business of Ethics, 
I must insist, not only to obtain true results, but also to find 
valid reasons for them. The direct object of Ethics is know- 
ledge and not practice ; and any one who uses the naturalistic 
fallacy has certainly not fulfilled this first object, however 
correct his practical principles may be. 

My objections to Naturalism are then, in the first place, 
that itjjffers no reason at all, far less any valid reason, for any 
ethical principle whatever ; and in this it already fails to satisfy 
the requirements of Ethics, as a scientific study. But in the 
second place I contend that, though it gives a reason for no 
ethical principle, it is a cause of the acceptance of false prin- 
ciples it deludes the mind into accepting ethical principles, 
which are false; and in this it is contrary to every aim of 
Ethics. It is easy to see that if we start with a definition of 
Bright conduct as conduct conducive to general happiness ; then, 
knowing that right conduct is universally conduct conducive to 
the good, we very easily arrive at the result that the good is 
general happiness. If, on the other hand, we once recognise 
that we must start our Ethics without a definition, we shall be 
much more apt to look about us, before we adopt any ethical 
principle whatever; and the more we look about us, the less 

" likely are we to adopt a false one. It may be replied to this : 
Yes, but we shall look about us just as much, before we settle on 
our definition, and are therefore just as likely to be right. But 

\Xt will try to shew that this is not the case. If we start with 
the conviction that a definition of good can be found, we start 
with the conviction that good can mean nothing else than some 
one property of things ; and our only business will then be to 
discover what that propertyjs. But if we recognise that, so far 
as the meaning of good goes, anything whatever may be good, 
we start with a much more open mind. Moreover, apart from 
the fact that, when we think we have a definition, we cannot 
logically defend our ethical principles in any way whatever, 
we shall also be much less apt to defend them well, even if 
i] logically. For we shall start with the conviction that good 


must mean so and so, and shall therefore be inclined either to 
misunderstand our opponent's arguments or to cut them short 
with the reply, 'This is not an open question : the very meaning 
of the word decides it; no one can think otherwise except 
through confusion.' 

15. Our first conclusion as to the subject-matter of Ethics 
is, then, thajUtbgre is a simple, indefinable, unanalysable object 
of thought by reference to which it must be defined. By what 
name we calHhis unique object is a matter of indifference, so 
long as we clearly recognise what it is and that it does differ 
from other objects. The words which are commonly taken as 
the signs of ethical judgments all do refer to it ; and they are 
expressions of ethical judgments solely because they do so refer. 
But they may refer to it in two different ways, which it is very 
important to distinguish, if we are to have a complete definition 
of the range of ethical judgments. Before I proceeded to argue 
that there was such an indefinable notion involved in ethical 
notions, I stated ( 4) that it was necessary for Ethics to enume- 
rate all true universal judgments, asserting that such and such 
,a thing was good, whenever it occurred. But, although all such 
judgments do refer to that unique notion which I have called-^ 
* good,' they do not all refer to it in the same way. They may 
either assert that this unique property does always attach to 
the thing in question, or else they may assert only that the 
thing in question is a cause or necessary condition for the 
existence of other things to which this unique property does 
attach. The nature of tliuie two SJH <!<> of universal ethical 
judgments is extremely different ; and a great part of the 
difficulties, which are met with in ordinary ethical speculation, 
are due to the failure to distinguish them clearly. Their dif- 
ference has, indeed, received expression in ordinary language by 
the contrast between the terms ' good as means ' and ' good in 
itself/ ' value as a means ' and ' intrinsic value.' But these 

^^p*^^" ~ *^ ^^^"^ 

terms are apt to be applied correctly only in the more obvious 
instances ; and this seems to be due to the fact that the 
distinction between the conceptions which they denote has not 
been made a separate object of investigation. This distinction 
may be briefly pointed out as follows. 



16. Whenever we judge that a thing is ' good as a means/ 

ofS^ we are making a judgment with regard to its causal relations: 
we judge both that it will have a particular kind of effect, and 
that that effect will be good in itself. But to find causal 
judgments that are universally true is notoriously a matter 
of extreme difficulty. The late date at which most of the 
physical sciences became exact, and the comparative fewness 
of the laws which they have succeeded in establishing even 
now, are sufficient proofs of this difficulty. With regard, then, 
to what are the most frequent objects of ethical judgments, 
namely actions, it is obvious that we cannot be satisfied that 
any of our universal causal judgments are true, even in the 
sense in which scientific laws are so. We cannot even discover 
hypothetical laws of the form ' Exactly this action will always, 
under these conditions, produce exactly that effect.' But for a 
correct ethical judgment with regard to the effects of certain 
actions we require more than this in two respects. (1) We require 
to know that a given action will produce a certain effect, under 
whatever circumstances it occurs. But this is certainly impossible. 
It is certain that in different circumstances the same action may 
produce effects which are utterly different in all respects upon 
which the value of the effects depends. Hence we can never be 
entitled to more than a generalisation to a proposition of the 
form 'This result generally follows this kind of action'; and 
even this generalisation will only be true, if the circumstances 
under which the action occurs are generally the same. This is 
in fact the case, to a great extent, within any one particular 
age and state of society. But, when we take other ages into 
account, in many most important cases the normal circum- 
stances of a given kind of action will be so different, that the 
generalisation which is true for one will not be true for another. 
With regard then to ethical judgments which assert that a 
certain kind of action is good as a means to a certain kind 
of effect, none will be universally true ; and many, though 
generally true at one period, will be generally false at others. 
But (2) we require to know not only that one good effect will 
be produced, but that, among all subsequent events affected by 
the action in question, the balance of good will be greater 


than if any other possible action had been performed. In other 
words, to judge that an action is generally a means to good is 
to judge not only that it generally does some good, but that it 
generally does the greatest good of which the circumstances 
admit. In this respect ethical judgments about the effects 
of action involve a difficulty and a complication far greater than 
that involved in the establishment of scientific laws. For the 
latter w<- need only consider a single effect; for the former it is 
essential to consider not only this, but the effects of that effect, 
and so on as far as our view into the future can reach. It is, 
indeed, obvious that our view can never reach far enough for us 
to be certain that any action will produce the best possible 
effects. We must be content, if the greatest possible balance 
of good seems to be produced within a limited period. But it 
is important to notice that the whole series of effects within 
a period of considerable length is actually taken account of in 
our common judgments that an action is good as a means; and 
that hence this additional complication, which makes ethical 
generalisations so far more difficult to establish than scientific 
laws, is one which is involved in actual ethical discussions, and 
is of praetical importance. The commonest rules of conduct 
involve such considerations as the balancing of future bad 
health against immediate j;ains; and even if we can never 
settle with any certainty how we shall secure the greatest 
possible total of good, we try at least to assure ourselves that 
probable future evils will not be greater than the immediate 

17. There are, then, judgments which state that certain 
kinds of things have good effects; and such judgments, for the 
reasons just given, have the important characteristics (1) that 
they are unlikely to be true, if they state that the kind of thing 
in question always has good effects, and (2) that, even if they 
only state that it generally has good effects, many of them will 
only be true of certain periods in tluTworld's history. On the 
other hand there are judgments which state that certain kinds 
of things are themselves good; and these differ from the last in 
that, if true at all, they are all of them universally true. It is ? 
therefore, extremely important to distinguish these two kinds 


of possible judgments. Both may be expressed in the same 
language : in both cases we commonly say ' Such and such a 
thing is good.' But in the one case 'good' will mean 'good as 
means,' i.e. merely that the thing is a means to good will have 
good effects: in the other case it will mean 'good as end' we 
shall be judging that the thing itself has the property which, in 
the first case, we asserted only to belong to its effects. It is 
plain that these are very different assertions to make about 
a thing; it is plain that either or both of them may be made, 
both truly and falsely, about all manner of things; and it is 
certain that unless we are clear as to which of the two we mean 
to assert, we shall have a very poor chance of deciding rightly 
whether our assertion is true or false. It is precisely this clear- 
ness as to the meaning of the question asked which has hitherto 
been almost entirely lacking in ethical speculation. Ethics lias 
always been predominantly concerned with the investigation of 
a limited class of actions. With regard to these we may ask 
both how far they are good in themselves and how far they have 
a general tendency to produce good results. And the arguments 
brought forward in ethical discussion have always been of both 
classes both such as would prove the conduct in question to be 
good in itself and such as would prove it to be good as a means. 
But that these are the only questions which any ethical dis- 
cussion can have to settle, and that to settle the one is not the 
same thing as to settle the other these two fundamental facts 
have in general escaped the notice of ethical philosophers. 
Ethical questions are commonly asked in an ambiguous form. 
It is asked 'What is a man's duty under these circumstances?' 
or 'Is it right to act in this way?' or 'What ought we to aim 
at securing?' But all these questions are capable of further 
analysis; a correct answer to any of them involves both judg- 
ments of what is good in itself and causal j udgments. This is 
implied even by those who maintain that we have a direct and 
immediate judgment of absolute rights and duties. Such a 
judgment can only mean that the course of action in question is 
the best thing to do; that, by acting so, every good that can be 
secured will have been secured. Now we are not concerned 
with the question whether such a judgment will ever be true. 


The question is: What does it imply, if it is true? And the 
only possible answer is that, whether true or false, it implies 
both a proposition as to the degree of goodness of the action in 
question, as compared with other things, and a number of causal 
propositions. For it cannot be denied that the action will have 
consequences: and to deny that the consequences matter is 
to make a judgment of their intrinsic value, as compared with 
the action itself. In asserting that the action is the best thing 
to do, we assert that it together with its consequences presents 
a greater sum of intrinsic value than any possible alternative. 
And this condition may be realised by any of the three cases: 
(a) If the action itself has greater intrinsic value than any 
alternative, whereas both its consequences and those of the 
alternatives are absolutely devoid either of intrinsic merit or 
intrinsic demerit; or (b) if, though its consequences are in- 
trinsically bad, the balance of intrinsic value is greater than 
would be produced by any alternative; or (c) if, its consequences 
being intrinsically good, the degree of value belonging to them 
and it conjointly is greater than that of any alternative series. 
In short, to assert that a certain line of conduct is, at a given 
time, absolutely right or obligatory, is obviously to assert that 
more good or less evil will exist in the world, if it be adopted, 
than if anything else be done instead. But this implies a 
judgment as to the value both of its own consequences and 
of those of any possible alternative. And that an action will 
have such and such consequences involves a number of causal 

Similarly, in answering the question ' What ought we to aim 
at securing?' causal judgments are again involved, but in a 
somewhat different way. We are liable to forget, because it is 
so obvious, that this question can never be answered correctly 
except by naming something which can be secured. Not every- > 
thing can be secured; and, even if we judge that nothing which 
cannot be obtained would be of equal value with that which 
can, the possibility of the latter, as well as its value, is essential 
to its being a proper end of action. Accordingly neither our 
judgments as to what actions we ought to perform, nor even our 
judgments as to the ends which they ought to produce, are 


pure judgments of intrinsic value. With regard to the former, 
an action which is absolutely obligatory may have no intrinsic 
value whatsoever; that it is perfectly virtuous may mean 
merely that it causes the best possible effects. And with regard 
to the latter, these best possible results which justify our action 
can, in any case, have only so much of intrinsic value as the 
laws of nature allow us to secure; and they in their turn may 
have no intrinsic value whatsoever, but may merely be a means 
to the attainment (in a still further future) of something that 
has such value. Whenever, therefore, we ask 'What ought we 
to do?' or 'What ought we to try to get?' we are asking 
questions which involve a correct answer to two others, com- 
pletely different in kind from one another. We must know both 
what degree of intrinsic value different things have, and how 
these different things may be obtained. But the vast majority 
of questions which have actually been discussed in Ethics all 
practical questions, indeed involve this double knowledge; and 
they have been discussed without any clear separation of the 
.two distinct questions involved. A great part of the vast 
disagreements prevalent in Ethics is to be attributed to this 
failure in analysis. By the use of conceptions which involve 
both that of intrinsic value and that of causal relation, as if they 
involved intrinsic value only, two different errors have been 
rendered almost universal. Either it is assumed that nothing 
has intrinsic value which is not possible, or else it is assumed 
that what is necessary must have intrinsic value. Hence the 
primary and peculiar business of Ethics, the determination what 
things have intrinsic value and in what degrees, has received no 
adequate treatment at all. And on the other hand a thorough 
discussion of means has been also largely neglected, owing to an 
obscure perception of the truth that it is perfectly irrelevant to 
the question of intrinsic values. But however this may be, and 
however strongly any particular reader may be convinced that 
some one of the mutually contradictory systems which hold the 
field has given a correct answer either to the question what has 
intrinsic value, or to the question what we ought to do, or to 
both, it must at least be admitted that the questions what is 
best in itself and what will bring about the best possible, are 


utterly distinct; that both belong to the actual subject-matter 
of Ethics; and that the more clearly distinct questions are 
distinguished, the better is our chance of answering both 

18. There remains one point which must not be omitted 
in a complete description of the kind of questions which Ethics 
has to answer. The main division of those questions is, as 
I have said, into two; the question what things are good in 
themselves, and the question to what other things these are 
related as effects. The first of these, which is the primary 
ethical question and is presupposed by the other, includes a 
correct comparison of the various things which have intrinsic 
value (if there are many such) in respect of the degree of value 
which they have ; and such comparison involves a difficulty of 
principle which has greatly aided the confusion of intrinsic 
value with mere 'goodness as a means.' It has been pointed out 
that one difference between a judgment^ which asserts that a 
thing is good in itself, and a judgment which asserts that it is 
a means to good, consists in the fact that the first, if true of 
one instance of the thing in question, is necessarily true of all ; 
whereas a thing which has good effects under some circumstances 
may have bad ones under others. Now it is certainly true that 
all judgments of intrinsic value are in this sense universal ; but 
the principle which I have now t> enunciate may easily make 
it appear as if they were not so but resembled the judgment 
of means in being merely general. There is, as will presently 
be maintained, a vast number of different things, each of which 
has intrinsic value; there are also very many which are positively 
bad ; and there is a still larger class of things, which appear 
to be indifferent. But a thing belonging to any of these three 
classes may occur as part of a whole, which includes among 
its other parts other things belonging both to the same and to 
the other two classes ; and these wholes, as such, may also have 
intrinsic value. The paradox, to which it is necessary to call 
attention, is that the value of such a whole bears no regular pro- 
portion to the sum of the values of its parts. It is certain that a 
good thing may exist in such a relation to another good thing 
that the value of the whole thus formed is immensely greater 


than the sum of the values of the two good things. It is certain 
that a whole formed of a good thing and an indifferent thing 
may have immensely greater value than that good thing itself 
possesses. It is certain that two bad things or a bad thing and 
an indifferent thing may form a whole much worse than the 
sum of badness of its parts. And it seems as if indifferent 
things may also be the sole constituents of a whole which has 
great value, either positive or negative. Whether the addition 
of a bad thing to a good whole may increase the positive value 
of the whole, or the addition of a bad thing to a bad may 
produce a whole having positive value, may seem more doubt- 
ful ; but it is, at least, possible, and this possibility must be 
taken into account in our ethical investigations. However we 
may decide particular questions, the principle is clear. The 
value of a whole must not be assumed to be the same as the sum 
elf the values of its parts. 

A single instance will suffice to illustrate the kind of relation 
in question. It seems to be true that to be conscious of a 
beautiful object is a thing of great intrinsic value ; whereas 
the same object, if no one be conscious of it, has certainly com- 
paratively little value, and is commonly held to have none at all. 
But the consciousness of a beautiful object is certainly a whole 
of some sort in which we can distinguish as parts the object on 
the one hand and the being conscious on the other. Now this 
latter factor occurs as part of a different whole, whenever we 
are conscious of anything ; and it would seem that some of these 
wholes have at all events very little value, and may even be 
indifferent or positively bad. Yet we cannot always attribute 
the slightness of their value to any positive demerit in the object 
which differentiates them from the consciousness of beauty; 
the object itself may approach as near as possible to absolute 
neutrality. Since, therefore, mere consciousness does not always 
confer great value upon the whole of which it forms a part, even 
though its object may have no great demerit, we cannot at- 
tribute the great superiority of the consciousness of a beautiful 
thing over the beautiful thing itself to the mere addition of the 
value of consciousness to that of the beautiful thing. Whatever 
the intrinsic value of consciousness may be, it does not give to 


the whole of which it forms a part a value proportioned to the 
sum of its value and that of its object. If this be so, we have 
here an instance of a whole possessing a different intrinsic value 
from the sum of that of its parts ; and whether it be so or not, 
what is meant by such a difference is illustrated by this case. 

19. There are, then, wholes which possess the property that 
their value is different from the sum of the values of their parts ; 
and the 'relations which subsist between such parts and the 
whole of which they form a part have not hitherto been dis- 
^tinctly recognised or received a separate name. Two points are 
especially worthy of notice. (1) It is plain that the existence of 
any such part is a necessary condition for the existence of that 
good which is constituted by the whole. And exactly the same 
language will also express the relation between a means and 
the good thing which is its effect. But yet there is a most 
important difference between the two cases, constituted by the 
fact that the part is, whereas the means is not, a part of the 
good thing for the existence of which its existence is a necessary 
condition. The necessity by which, if the good in question is to 
exist, the means to it must exist is merely a natural or causal 
necessity. If the laws of nature were different, exactly the 
same good might exist, although what is now a necessary 
condition of its existence did not exist. The existence of the 
means has no intrinsic value ; and its utter annihilation would 
leave the value of that which it is now necessary to secure 
entirely unchanged. But in the case of a part of such a whole 
as we are now considering, it is otherwise. In this case the 
good in question cannot conceivably exist, unless the part exist 
also. The necessity which connects the two is quite inde- 
pendent of natural law. What is asserted to have intrinsic 
value is the existence of the whole ; and the existence of the 
whole includes the existence of its part. Suppose the part 
removed, and what remains is not what was asserted to have 
intrinsic value ; but if we suppose a means removed, what 
remains is just what was asserted to have intrinsic value. And 
yet (2) the existence of the part may itself have no more 4 
intrinsic value than that of the means. It is this fact which 
constitutes the paradox of the relation which we are discussing. 


It has just been said that what has intrinsic value is the 
existence of the whole, and that this includes the existence of 
the part ; and from this it would seem a natural inference that 
the existence of the part has intrinsic value. But the inference 
would be as false as if we were to conclude that, because the 
number of two stones was two, each of the stones was also two. 
The part of a valuable whole retains exactly the same value 
when it is, as when it is not, a part of that whole. If it had 
value under other circumstances, its value is not any greater, 
when it is part of a far more valuable whole ; and if it had no 
value by itself, it has none still, however great be that of the 
whole of which it now forms a part. We are not then justified 
in asserting that one and the same thing is under some circum- 
stances intrinsically good, and under others not so ; as we are 
justified in asserting of a means that it sometimes does and 
sometimes does not produce good results. And yet we are 
justified in asserting that it is far more desirable that a certain 
thing should exist under some circumstances than under others ; 
namely when other things will exist in such relations to it as to 
form a more valuable whole. It will not have more intrinsic 
value under these circumstances than under others ; it will not 
necessarily even be a means to the existence of things having 
more intrinsic value : but it will, like a means, be a necessary 
condition for the existence of that which has greater intrinsic 
value, although, unlike a means, it will itself form a part of this 
more valuable existent. 

20. I have said that the peculiar relation between part and 
whole which I have just been trying to define is one which has 
received no separate name. It would, however, be useful that 
it should have one; and there is a name, which might well be 
appropriated to it, if only it could be divorced from its present 
unfortunate usage. Philosophers, especially those who profess 
to have derived great benefit from the writings of Hegel, have 
latterly made much use of the terms ' organic whole,' ' organic 
unity,' 'organic relation.' The reason why these terms might 
well be appropriated to the use suggested is that the peculiar 
relation of parts to whole, just defined, is one of the properties 
which distinguishes the wholes to which they are actually applied 


with the greatest frequency. And the reason why it is desirable 
that they should be divorced from their present usage is that, 
as at present used, they have no distinct sense and, on the con- 
trary, both imply and propagate errors of confusion. 

To say that a thing is an ' organic whole ' is generally under- 
stood to imply that its parts are related to one another and to 
itself as means to end ; it is also understood to imply that they 
have a property described in some such phrase as that they have 
' no meaning or significance apart from the whole ' ; and finally 
such a whole is also treated as if it had the property to which 
I am proposing that the name should be confined. But those 
who use the term give us, in general, no hint as to how they 
suppose these three properties to be related to one another. 
It seems generally to be assumed that they are identical ; and 
always, at least, that they are necessarily connected with one 
another. That they are not identical I have already tried to 
shew ; to suppose them so is to neglect the very distinctions 
pointed out in the last paragraph ; and the usage might well be 
discontinued merely because it encourages such neglect. But 
a still more cogent reason for its discontinuance is that, so far 
from being necessarily connected, the second is a property which 
can attach to nothing, being a self-contradictory conception ; 
whereas the first, if we insist on its most important sense, 
applies to many cases, to which we have no reason to think that 
the third applies also, and the third certainly applies to many 
to which the first does not apply. 

21. These relations between_the three properties just dis- 
tinguished may be illustrated by reference to a whole of the kind 
from which the name ' organic ' was derived a whole which is 
an organism in the scientific sense namely the human body. 

(1) There exists between many parts of our body (though 
not between all) a relation which has been familiarised by the 
fable, attributed to Menenius Agrippa, concerning the belly 
and its members. We can find in it parts such that the con- 
tinued existence of the one is a necessary condition for the 
continued existence of the other; while the continued existence 
of this latter is also a necessary condition for the continued 
existence of the former. This amounts to no more than saying 


that in the body we have instances of two things, both enduring 
for some time, which have a relation of mutual causal dependence 
on one another a relation of 'reciprocity.' Frequently no more 
than this is meant by saying that the parts of the body form an 
' organic unity,' or that they are mutually means and ends to 
one another. And we certainly have here a striking character- 
istic of living things. But it would be extremely rash to assert 
that this relation of mutual causal dependence was only ex- 
hibited by living things and hence was sufficient to define their 
peculiarity. And it is obvious that of two things which have 
this relation of mutual dependence, neither may have intrinsic 
value, or one may have it and the other lack it. They are not 
necessarily 'ends' to one another in any sense except that in 
which ' end ' means ' effect.' And moreover it is plain that in 
this sense the whole cannot be an end to any of its parts. We 
are apt to talk of ' the whole ' in contrast to one of its parts, 
when in fact we mean only the rest of the parts. But strictly 
the whole must include all its parts and no part can be a cause 
of the whole, because it cannot be a cause of itself. It is plain, 
therefore, that this relation of mutual causal dependence implies 
nothing with regard to the value of either of the objects which 
have it; and that, even if both of them happen also to have 
value, this relation between them is one which cannot hold 
between part and whole. 

But (2) it may also be the case that our body as a whole 
has a value greater than the sum of values of its parts ; and 
this may be what is meant when it is said that the parts are 
means to the whole. It is obvious that if we ask the question 
' Why should the parts be such as they are ? ' a proper answer 
may be ' Because the whole they form has so much value.' But 
it is equally obvious that the relation which we thus assert to 
exist between part and whole is quite different from that which 
we assert to exist between part and part when we say 'This 
part exists, because that one could not exist without it.' In 
the latter case we assert the two parts to be causally connected; 
but, in the former, part and whole cannot be causally connected, 
and the relation which we assert to exist between them may 
exist even though the parts are not causally connected either. 


All the parts of a picture do not have that relation of mutual 
causal dependence, which certain parts of the body have, and 
yet the existence of those which do not have it may be abso- 
lutely essential to the value of the whole. The two relations 
are quite distinct in kind, and we cannot infer the existence 
of the one from that of the other. It can, therefore, serve no 
useful purpose to include them both under the same name ; and 
if we are to say that a whole is organic because its parts are (in 
this sense) 'means' to the whole, we must not say that it is organic 
because its parts are causally dependent on one another. 

22. But finally (3) the sense which has been most prominent 
in recent uses of the term ' organic whole ' is one whereby it 
asserts the parts of such a whole to have a property which the 
parts of no whole can possibly have. It is supposed that just 
as the whole would not be what it is but for the existence of 
the parts, so the parts would not be what they are but for the 
existence of the whole ; and this is understood to mean not 
merely that any particular part could not exist unless the 
others existed too (which is the case where relation (1) exists 
between the parts), but actually that the part is no distinct 
object of thought that the whole, of which it is a part, is in 
its turn a part of it. That this supposition is self-contradictory 
a very little reflection should be sufficient to shew. We may 
admit, indeed, that when a particular thing is a part of a whole, 
it does possess a predicate which it would not otherwise possess 
namely that it is a part of that whole. But what cannot be 
admitted is that this predicate alters the nature or enters into 
the definition of the thing which has it. When we think of 
the part itself, we mean just that which we assert, in this case, 
to have the predicate that it is part of the whole ; and the mere 
assertion that it is a part of the whole involves that it should 
itself be distinct from that which we assert of it. Otherwise 
we contradict ourselves since we assert that, not it, but some- 
thing else namely it together with that which we assert of it 
has the predicate which we assert of it. In short, it is obvious 
that no part contains analytically the whole to which it belongs, 
or any other parts of that whole. The relation of part to whole 
is not the same as that of whole to part ; and the very definition 

M. 3 


of the latter is that it does contain analytically that which is 
said to be its part. And yet this very self-contradictory doc- 
trine is the chief mark which shews the influence of Hegel 
upon modern philosophy an influence which pervades almost 
the whole of orthodox philosophy. This is what is generally 
implied by the cry against falsification by abstraction : that a 
whole is always a part of its part ! ' If you want to know the 
truth about a part,' we are told, 'you must consider not that 
part, but something else namely the whole : nothing is true of 
the part, but only of the whole.' Yet plainly it must be true 
of the part at least that it is a part of the whole ; and it is 
obvious that when we say it is, we do not mean merely that the 
whole is a part of itself. This doctrine, therefore, that a part 
can have ' no meaning or significance apart from its whole ' 
must be utterly rejected. It implies itself that the statement 
' This is a part of that whole ' has a meaning; and in order that 
this may have one, both subject and predicate must have a 
distinct meaning. And it is easy to see how this false doctrine 
has arisen by confusion with the two relations (1) and (2) which 
may really be properties of wholes. 

(a) The existence of a part may be connected by a natural 
or causal necessity with the existence of the other parts of its 
whole ; and further what is a part of a whole and what has . 
ceased to be such a part, although differing intrinsically from 
one another, may be called by one and the same name. Thus, 
to take a typical example, if an arm be cut off from the human 
body, we still call it an arm. Yet an arm, when it is a part of 
the body, undoubtedly differs from a dead arm : and hence we 
may easily be led to say ' The arm which is a part of the body 
would not be what it is, if it were not such a part,' and to 
think that the contradiction thus expressed is in reality a 
characteristic of things. But, in fact, the dead arm never was 
a part of the body ; it is only partially identical with the living 
arm. Those parts of it which are identical with parts of the 
living arm are exactly the same, whether they belong to the 
body or not ; and in them we have an undeniable instance of 
one and the same thing at one time forming a part, and at 
another not forming a part of the presumed ' organic whole.' 


On the other hand those properties which are possessed by the 
living, and not by the dead, arm, do not exist in a changed form 
in the latter : they simply do not exist there at all. By a causal 
necessity their existence depends on their having that relation 
to the other parts of the body which we express by saying that 
they form part of it. Yet, most certainly, if they ever did not 
form part of the body, they would be exactly what they are 
when they do. That they differ intrinsically from the properties 
of the dead arm and that they form part of the body are pro- 
positions not analytically related to one another. There is no 
contradiction in supposing them to retain such intrinsic 
differences and yet not to form part of the body. 

But (6) when we are told that a living arm has no meaning 
or significance apart from the body to which it belongs, a differ- 
ent fallacy is also suggested. ' To have meaning or significance ' 
is commonly used in the sense of 'to have importance'; and this 
again means 'to have value either as a means or as an end.' 
Now it is quite possible that even a living arm, apart from its 
body, would have no intrinsic value whatever; although the 
whole of which it is a part has great intrinsic value owing to 
its presence. Thus we may easily come to say that, as a part 
of the body, it has great value, whereas by itself it would have 
none ; and thus that its whole ' meaning ' lies in its relation to 
the body. But in fact the value in question obviously does not 
belong to it at all. To have value merely as a part is equivalent 
to having no value at all, but merely being a part of that 
which has it. Owing, however, to neglect of this distinction, 
the assertion tRat a part has value, as a part, which it would 
not otherwise have, easily leads to the assumption that it is also 
different, as a part, from what it would otherwise be ; for it is, 
in fact, true that two things which have a different value must 
also differ in other respects. Hence the assumption that one 
and the same thing, because it is a part of a more valuable whole 
at one time than at another, therefore has more intrinsic value at 
one time than at another, has encouraged the self-contradictory 
belief that one and the same thing may be two different things, 
and that only in one of its forms is it truly what it is. 

For these reasons, I shall, where it seems convenient, take 



the liberty to use the term 'organic' with a special sense. I 
shall use it to denote the fact that a whole has an intrinsic value 
different in amount from the sum of the values of its parts. I 
shall use it to denote this and only this. The term will not 
imply any causal relation whatever between the parts of the 
whole in question. And it will not imply either, that the parts 
are inconceivable except as parts of that whole, or that, when 
they form parts of such a whole, they have a value different 
from that which they would have if they did not. Understood 
in this special and perfectly definite sense the relation of an 
organic whole to its parts is one of the most important which 
Ethics has to recognise. A chief part of that science should be 
occupied in comparing the relative values of various goods ; and 
the grossest errors will be committed in such comparison if it 
be assumed that wherever two things form a whole, the value 
of that whole is merely the sum of the values of those two 
things. With this question of ' organic wholes/ then, we com- 
plete the enumeration of the kind of problems, with which it is 
the business of Ethics to deal. 

23. In this chapter I have endeavoured to enforce the 
following conclusions. (1) The peculiarity of Ethics is not that 
it investigates assertions about human conduct, but that it 
investigates assertions about that property of things which is 
denoted by the term ' good,' and the converse property denoted 
by the term ' bad.' It must, in order to establish its conclusions, 
investigate the truth of all such assertions, except those which 
assert the relation of this property only to a single existent 
(1 4). (2) This property, by reference to which the subject- 
matter of Ethics must be defined, is itself simple and indefinable 
(5 14). And (3) all assertions about its relation to other 
things are of two, and only two, kinds : they either assert in 
what degree things themselves possess this property, or else 
they assert causal relations between other things and those 
which possess it (15 17). Finally, (4) in considering the 
different degrees in which things themselves possess this pro- 
perty, we have to take account of the fact that a whole may 
possess it in a degree different from that which is obtained by 
summing the degrees in which its parts possess it (18 22). 



24. IT results from the conclusions of Chapter I, that all 
ethical questions fall under one or other of three classes. The 
first class contains but one question the question What is the 
nature of that peculiar predicate, the relation of which to other 
things constitutes the object of all other ethical investigations ? 
or, in other words, What is meant by good ? This first question 
I have already attempted to answer. The peculiar predicate, 
by reference to which the sphere of Ethics must be defined, is 
simple, unanalysable, indefinable. There remain two classes of 
questions with regard to the relation of this predicate to other 
things. We may ask either (1) To what things and in what 
degree does this predicate directly attach ? What things are 
good in themselves ? or (2) By what means shall we be able 
to make what exists in the world as good as possible ? What 
causal relations hold between what is best in itself and other 
things ? 

In this and the two following chapters, I propose to discuss 
certain theories, which offer us an answer to the question What 
is good in itself ? I say advisedly an answer : for these theories 
are all characterised by the fact that, if true, they would simplify 
the study of Ethics very much. They all hold that there is only 
one kind of fact, of which the existence has any value at all. 
But they all also possess another characteristic, which is my 
reason for grouping them together and treating them first: 
namely that the main reason why the single kind of fact they 
name has been held to define the sole good, is that it has been 


held to define what is meant by ' good ' itself. In other words 
they are all theories of the end or ideal, the adoption of which 
has been chiefly caused by the commission of what I have called 
the naturalistic fallacy : they all confuse the first and second of 
^ the three possible questions which Ethics can ask. It is, indeed, 
this fact which explains their contention that only a single kind 
of thing is good. That a thing should be good, it has been 
thought, means that it possesses this single property : and hence 
(it is thought) only what possesses this property is good. The 
inference seems very natural ; and yet what is meant by it is 
self-contradictory. For those who make it fail to perceive that 
their conclusion ' what possesses this property is good ' is a 
significant proposition : that it does not mean either ' what 
possesses this property, possesses this property ' or ' the word 
" good " denotes that a thing possesses this property.' And yet, 
if it does not mean one or other of these two things, the inference 
. contradicts its own premise. 

I propose, therefore, to discuss certain theories of what is 
good in itself, which are based on the naturalistic fallacy, in the 
sense that the commission of this fallacy has been the main 
cause of their wide acceptance. The discussion will be designed 
both (1) further to illustrate the fact that the naturalistic 
fallacy is a fallacy, or, in other words, that we are all aware of a 
certain simple quality, which (and not anything else) is what we 
mainly mean by the term 'good' ; and (2) to shew that not one, 
but many different things, possess this property. For I cannot 
hope to recommend the doctrine that things which are good do 
not owe their goodness to their common possession of any other 
property, without a criticism of the main doctrines, opposed to 
this, whose power to recommend themselves is proved by their 
wide prevalence. 

25. The theories I propose to discuss may be conveniently 
divided into two groups. The naturalistic fallacy always implies 
that when we think 'This is good,' what we are thinking is that 
the thing in question bears a definite relation to some one other 
thing. But this one thing, by reference to which good is defined, 
may be either what I may call a natural object something of 
which the existence is admittedly an object of experience or 


else it may be an object which is only inferred to exist in a 
supersensible real world. These two types of ethical theory I 
propose to treat separately. Theories of the second type may 
conveniently be called ' metaphysical,' and I shall postpone con- 
sideration of them till Chapter IV. In this and the following 
chapter, on the other hand, I shall deal with theories which owe 
their prevalence to the supposition that good can be defined by 
reference to a natural object ; and these are what I mean by the 
name, which gives the title to this chapter, 'Naturalistic Ethics.' 
It should be observed that the fallacy, by reference to which I 
define ' Metaphysical Ethics,' is the same in kind ; and I give it 
but one name, the naturalistic fallacy. But when we regard 
the ethical theories recommended by this fallacy, it seems con- 
venient to distinguish those which consider goodness to consist 
in a relation to something which exists here and now, from those 
which do not. According to the former, Ethics is an empirical 
or positive science : its conclusions could be all established by 
means of empirical observation and induction. But this is not 
the case with Metaphysical Ethics. There is, therefore, a 
marked distinction between these two groups of ethical theories 
based on the same fallacy. And within Naturalistic theories, 
too, a convenient division may also be made. There is one 
natural object, namely pleasure, which has perhaps been as 
frequently held to be the sole good as all the rest put together. 
And there is, moreover, a further reason for treating Hedonism 
separately. That doctrine has, I think, as plainly as any other, 
owed its prevalence to the naturalistic fallacy ; but it has had a 
singular fate in that the writer, who first clearly exposed the 
fallacy of the naturalistic arguments by which it had been 
attempted to prove that pleasure was the sole good, has main- 
tained that nevertheless it is the sole good. I propose, there- 
fore, to divide my discussion of Hedonism from that of other 
Naturalistic theories ; treating of Naturalistic Ethics in general 
in this chapter, and of Hedonism, in particular, in the next. 

26. The subject of the present chapter is, then, ethical 
theories which declare that no intrinsic value is to be found 
except in the possession of some one natural property, other than 
pleasure ; and which declare this because it is supposed that to 


be 'good' means to possess the property in question. Such 
theories I call 'Naturalistic.' I have thus appropriated the 
name Naturalism to a particular method of approaching Ethics 
a method which, strictly understood, is inconsistent with the 
possibility of any Ethics whatsoever. This method consists in 
substituting for 'good' some one property of a natural object or 
of a collection of natural objects ; and in thus replacing Ethics 
by some one of the natural sciences. In general, the science 
thus substituted is one of the sciences specially concerned with 
man, owing to the general mistake (for such I hold it to be) of 
regarding the matter of Ethics as confined to human conduct. 
In general, Psychology has been the science substituted, as by 
J. S. Mill ; or Sociology, as by Professor Clifford, and other modern 
writers. But any other science might equally well be substi- 
tuted. It is the same fallacy which is implied, when Professor 
Tyndall recommends us to 'conform to the laws of matter': and 
here the science which it is proposed to substitute for Ethics is 
simply Physics. The name then is perfectly general ; for, no 
matter what the something is that good is held to mean, the 
theory is still Naturalism. Whether good be defined as yellow 
or green or blue, as loud or soft, as round or square, as sweet or 
bitter, as productive of life or productive of pleasure, as willed or 
desired or felt : whichever of these or of any other object in the 
world, good may be held to mean, the theory, which holds it to 
mean them, will be a naturalistic theory. I have called such 
theories naturalistic because all of these terms denote properties, 
simple or complex, of some simple or complex natural object ; 
and, before I proceed to consider them, it will be well to define 
^what is meant by ' nature ' and by ' natural objects.' 

By ' nature,' then, I do mean and have meant that which is 
the subject-matter of the natural sciences and also of psychology. 
It may be said to include all that has existed, does exist, or will 
exist in time. If we consider whether any object is of such a 
nature that it may be said to exist now, to have existed, or to 
be about to exist, then we may know that that object is a 
natural object, and that nothing, of which this is not true, is a 
natural object. Thus for instance, of our minds we should say 
that they did exist yesterday, that they do exist to-day, and 


probably will exist in a minute or two. We shall say that we had 
thoughts yesterday, which have ceased to exist now, although 
their effects may remain : and in so far as those thoughts did 
exist, they too are natural objects. 

There is, indeed, no difficulty about the 'objects' themselves, 
in the sense in which I have just used the term. It is easy to 
say which of them are natural, and which (if any) are not 
natural. But when we begin to consider the properties of 
objects, then I fear the problem is more difficult. Which 
among the properties of natural objects are natural properties 
and which are not ? For I do not deny that good is a property 
of certain natural objects: certain of them, I think, are good; 
and yet I have said that 'good' itself is- not a natural property^- 
Well, my test for these too also concerns their existence in 
time. Can we imagine 'good' as existing by itself in time, 
and not merely as a property of some natural object ? For 
myself, I cannot so imagine it, whereas with the greater number 
of properties of objects those which I call the natural 
properties their existence does seem to me to be independent 
of the existence of those objects. They are, in fact, rather 
parts of which the object is made up than mere predicates 
which attach to it. If they were all taken away, no object 
would be left, not even a bare substance : for they are in 
themselves substantial and give to the object all the substance 
that it has. But this is not so with good. If indeed good 
were a feeling, as some would have us believe, then it would 
exist in time. But that is why to call it so is to commit 
the naturalistic fallacy. It will always remain pertinent to ask, 
whether the feeling itself is good ; and if so, then good cannot 
itself be identical with any feeling. 

27. Those theories of Ethics, then, are 'naturalistic' which 
declare the sole good to consist in some one property of things, 
which exists in time ; and which do so because they suppose 
that 'good' itself can be defined by reference to such a property. 
And we may now proceed to consider such theories. 

And, first of all, one of the most famous of ethical maxims 
is that which recommends a ' life according to nature.' That 
was the principle of the Stoic Ethics ; but, since their Ethics 


has some claim to be called metaphysical, I shall not attempt 
to deal with it here. But the same phrase reappears in 
Rousseau ; and it is not unfrequently maintained even now 
that what we ought to do is to live naturally. Now let us 
examine this contention in its general form. It is obvious, 
in the first place, that we cannot say that everything natural is 
good, except perhaps in virtue of some metaphysical theory, 
such as I shall deal with later. If everything natural is 
equally good, then certainly Ethics, as it is ordinarily under- 
stood, disappears : for nothing is more certain, from an ethical 
point of view, than that some things are bad and others good ; 
the object of Ethics is, indeed, in chief part, to give you 
general rules whereby you may avoid the one and secure 
the other. What, then, does ' natural ' mean, in this advice 
to live naturally, since it obviously cannot apply to everything 
that is natural ? 

The phrase seems to point to a vague notion that there is 
some such thing as natural good; to a belief that Nature 
may be said to fix and decide what shall be good, just as 
she fixes and decides what shall exist. For instance, it may 
be supposed that ' health ' is susceptible of a natural definition, ] 
that Nature has fixed what health shall be : and health, it may | 
be said, is obviously good ; hence in this case Nature has 1 
decided the matter; we have only to go to her and ask her I 
what health is, and we shall know what is good : we shall 
have based an ethics upon science. But what is this natural 
definition of health ? I can only conceive that health should 
be defined in natural terms as the normal state of an organism 
for undoubtedly disease is also a natural product. To say 1 
that health is what is preserved by evolution, and what itself 
tends to preserve, in the struggle for existence, the organism 
which possesses it, comes to the same thing: for the point 1 
of evolution is that it pretends to give a causal explanation \ 
of why some forms of life are normal and others are abnormal ; 
it explains the origin of species. When therefore we are told 
that health is natural, we may presume that what is meant 
is that it is normal ; and that when we are told to pursue 
health as a natural end, what is implied is that the normal 


must be good. But is it so obvious that the normal must 
be good ? Is it really obvious that health, for instance, is 
good ? Was the excellence of Socrates or of Shakespeare 
normal ? Was it not rather abnormal, extraordinary ? It is, I 
think, obvious in the first place, that not all that is good is 
normal ; that, on the contrary, the abnormal is often better 
than the normal : peculiar excellence, as well as peculiar 
viciousness, must obviously be not normal but abnormal. Yet 
it may be said that nevertheless the normal is good ; and I 
myself am not prepared to dispute that health is good. What 
I contend is that this must not be taken to be obvious ; that 
it must be regarded as an open question. To declare it to be 
obvious is to suggest the naturalistic fallacy : just as, in some 
recent books, a proof that genius is diseased, abnormal, has 
been used in order to suggest that genius ought not to be 
encouraged. Such reasoning is fallacious, and dangerously 
fallacious. The fact is that in the very words 'health' and 
' disease ' we do commonly include the notion that the one 
is good and the other bad. But, when a so-called scientific 
definition of them is attempted, a definition in natural terms, 
the only one possible is that by way of 'normal' and 'abnormal.' 
Now, it is easy to prove that some things commonly thought 
excellent are abnormal ; and it follows that they are diseased. 
But it does not follow, except by .virtue of the naturalistic 
fallacy, that those things, commonly thought good, are therefore 
bad. All that has really been shewn is that in some cases there 
is a conflict between the common judgment that genius is 
good, and the common judgment that health is good. It is not 
sufficiently recognised that the latter judgment has not a whit 
more warrant for its truth than the former; that both are 
perfectly open questions. It may be true, indeed, that by 
' healthy ' we do commonly imply ' good ' ; but that only shews 
that when we so use the word, we do not mean the same thing 
by it as the thing which is meant in medical science. That 
health, when the word is used to denote something good, is 
good, goes no way at all to shew that health, when the word is 
used to denote something normal, is also good. We might 
as well say that, because 'bull' denotes an Irish joke and 


also a certain animal, the joke and the animal must be the 
same thing. We must not, therefore, be frightened by the 
assertion that a thing is natural into the admission that it 
is good; good does not, by definition, mean anything that is 
natural ; and it is therefore always an open question whether 
anything that is natural is good. 

28. But there is another slightly different sense in which 
the word ' natural ' is used with an implication that it denotes 
something good. This is when we speak of natural affections, 
or unnatural crimes and vices. Here the meaning seems to be, 
not so much that the action or feeling in question is normal or 
abnormal, as that it is necessary. It is in this connection that 
we are advised to imitate savages and beasts. Curious advice 
certainly ; but, of course, there may be something in it. I am 
not here concerned to enquire under what circumstances some 
of us might with advantage take a lesson from the cow. I have 
really no doubt that such exist. What I am concerned with is 
a certain kind of reason, which I think is sometimes used to 
support this doctrine a naturalistic reason. The notion some- 
times lying at the bottom of the minds of preachers of this 
gospel is that we cannot improve on nature. This notion is 
certainly true, in the sense that anything we can do, that may 
be better than the present state of things, will be a natural 
product. But that is not what is meant by this phrase; 
nature is again used to mean a mere part of nature ; only this 
time the part meant is not so much the normal as an arbitrary 
minimum of what is necessary for life. And when this mini- 
mum is recommended as ' natural ' as the way of life to which 
Nature points her finger then the naturalistic fallacy is used. 
Against this position I wish only to point out that though 
the performance of certain acts, not in themselves desirable, 
may be excused as necessary means to the preservation of life, 
that is no reason for praising them, or advising us to limit 
ourselves to those simple actions which are necessary, if it is 
possible for us to improve our condition even at the expense 
of doing what is in this sense unnecessary. Nature does 
indeed set limits to what is possible; she does control the 
means we have at our disposal for obtaining what is good; 


and of this fact, practical Ethics, as we shall see later, must 
certainly take account : but when she is supposed to have a 
preference for what is necessary, what is necessary means only 
what is necessary to obtain a certain end, presupposed as the 
highest good ; and what the highest good is Nature cannot 
^determine. Why should we suppose that what is merely 
necessary to life is ipso facto better than what is necessary to 
the study of metaphysics, useless as that study may appear ? 
It may be that life is only worth living, because it enables 
us to study metaphysics is a necessary means thereto. The 
fallacy of this argument from nature has been discovered as 
long ago as Lucian. ' I was almost inclined to laugh,' says 
Callicratidas, in one of the dialogues imputed to him 1 , 'just 
now, when Charicles was praising irrational brutes and the 
savagery of the Scythians : in the heat of his argument he was 
almost repenting that he was born a Greek. What wonder if 
lions and bears and pigs do not act as I was proposing ? That 
which reasoning would fairly lead a man to choose, cannot be 
had by creatures that do not reason, simply because they are so 
stupid. If Prometheus or some other god had given each of 
them the intelligence of a man, then they would not have lived 
in deserts and mountains nor fed on one another. They would 
have built temples just as we do, each would have lived in the 
centre of his family, and they would have formed a nation 
bound by mutual laws. Is it anything surprising that brutes, 
who have had the misfortune to be unable to obtain by fore- 
thought any of the goods, with which reasoning provides us, 
should have missed love too ? Lions do not love ; but neither 
do they philosophise ; bears do not love ; but the reason is they 
do not know the sweets of friendship. It is only men, who, by 
their wisdom and their knowledge, after many trials, have 
chosen what is best.' 

29. To argue that a thing is good because it is ' natural,' or 
bad because it is 'unnatural/ in these common senses of the 
term, is therefore certainly fallacious : and yet such arguments 
are very frequently used. But they do not commonly pretend 
to give a systematic theory of Ethics. Among attempts to 

i, 4367. 


systematise an appeal to nature, that which is now most preva- 
lent is to be found in the application to ethical questions of the 
term 'Evolution' in the ethical doctrines which have been 
called ' Evolutionistic.' These doctrines are those which main- 
tain that the course of 'evolution,' while it shews us the direction 
in which we are developing, thereby and for that reason shews 
us the direction in which we ought to develop. Writers, who 
maintain such a doctrine, are at present very numerous and 
very popular ; and I propose to take as my example the writer, 
who is perhaps the best known of them all Mr Herbert 
Spencer. Mr Spencer's doctrine, it must be owned, does not 
offer the clearest example of the naturalistic fallacy as used in 
support of Evolutionistic Ethics. A clearer example might be 
found in the doctrine of Guyau 1 , a writer who has lately had 
considerable vogue in France, but who is not so well known as 
Spencer. Guyau might almost be called a disciple of Spencer ; 
he is frankly evolutionistic, and frankly naturalistic ; and I may 
mention that he does not seem to think that he differs from 
Spencer by reason of his naturalism. The point in which he 
has criticised Spencer concerns the question how far the ends 
of ' pleasure ' and of ' increased life ' coincide as motives and 
means to the attainment of the ideal : he does not seem to 
think that he differs from Spencer in the fundamental principle 
that the ideal is ' Quantity of life, measured in breadth as well 
as in length,' or, as Guyau says, 'Expansion and intensity of 
life ' ; nor in the naturalistic reason which he gives for this 
principle. And I am not sure that he does differ from Spencer 
in these points. Spencer does, as I shall shew, use the natural- 
istic fallacy in details; but with regard to his fundamental 
principles, the following doubts occur: Is he fundamentally a 
Hedonist? And, if so, is he a naturalistic Hedonist? In that case 
he would better have been treated in my next chapter. Does he 
hold that a tendency to increase quantity of life is merely a cri- 
terion of good conduct ? Or does he hold that such increase of 
life is marked out by nature as an end at which we ought to aim ? 
I think his language in various places would give colour to 

1 See Esquisse d'une Morale sans Obligation ni Sanction, par M. Guyau. 
4 ma Edition. Paris : F. Alcan, 1896. 



infinitely lower, might survive us. The survival of the fittest 
does not mean, as one might suppose, the survival of what is 
fittest to fulfil a good purpose best adapted to a good end : at 
the last, it means merely the survival of the fittest to survive ; 
and the value of the scientific theory, and it is a theory of great 
value, just consists in shewing what are the causes which pro- 
duce certain biological effects. Whether these effects are good 
or bad, it cannot pretend to judge. 

31. But now let us hear what Mr Spencer says about 
the application of Evolution to Ethics. 

'I recur,' he says 1 , 'to the main proposition set forth in 
these two chapters, which has, I think, been fully justified. 
Guided by the truth that as the conduct with which Ethics 
deals is part of conduct at large, conduct at large must be 
generally understood before this part can be specially under- 
stood ; and guided by the further truth that to understand 
conduct at large we must understand the evolution of conduct ; 
we have been led to see that Ethics has for its subject-matter, 
that form which universal conduct assumes during the last 
stages of its evolution. We have also concluded that these last 
stages in the evolution of conduct are those displayed by 
the highest 2 type of being when he is forced, by increase of 
numbers, to live more and more in presence of his fellows. 
And there has followed the corollary that conduct gains ethical 
sanction 2 in proportion as the activities, becoming less and less 
militant and more and more industrial, are such as do not 
necessitate mutual injury or hindrance, but consist with, and 
are furthered by, co-operation and mutual aid. 

' These implications of the Evolution-Hypothesis, we shall 
now see harmonize with the leading moral ideas men have 
otherwise reached.' 

Now, if we are to take the last sentence strictly if the 
propositions which precede it are really thought by Mr Spencer 
to be implications of the Evolution-Hypothesis there can be 
no doubt that Mr Spencer has committed the naturalistic 
fallacy. All that the Evolution-Hypothesis tells us is that 
certain kinds of conduct are more evolved than others; and 

1 Data of Ethics, Chap, n, 7, ad Jin. 2 The italics are mine. 


this is, in fact, all that Mr Spencer has attempted to prove 
in the two chapters concerned. Yet he tells us that one of the 
things it has proved is that conduct gains ethical sanction in 
proportion as it displays certain characteristics. What he 
has tried to prove is only that, in proportion as it displays 
those characteristics, it is more evolved. It is plain, then, that 
Mr Spencer identifies the gaining of ethical sanction with the 
being more evolved : this follows strictly from his words. But 
Mr Spencer's language is extremely loose ; and we shall presently 
see that he seems to regard the view it here implies as false. 
We cannot, therefore, take it as Mr Spencer's definite view that 
' better ' means nothing but ' more evolved ' ; or even that what 
is 'more evolved' is therefore 'better.'' But we are entitled 
to urge that he is influenced by these views, and therefore 
by the naturalistic fallacy. It is only by the assumption of 
such influence that we can explain his confusion as to what 
he has really proved, and the absence of any attempt to prove, 
what he says he has proved, that conduct which is more evolved 
is better. We shall look in vain for any attempt to shew that 
'ethical sanction' is in proportion to 'evolution/ or that it is the 
'highest' type of being which displays the most evolved conduct; 
yet Mr Spencer concludes that this is the case. It is only fair 
to assume that he is not sufficiently conscious how much 
these propositions stand in need of proof what a very different 
thing is being ' more evolved ' from being ' higher ' or ' better.' 
It may, of course, be true that what is more evolved is also 
higher and better. But Mr Spencer does not seem aware 
that to assert the one is in any case not the same thing as 
to assert the other. He argues at length that certain kinds 
of conduct are 'more evolved,' and then informs us that 
he has proved them to gain ethical sanction in proportion, 
without any warning that he has omitted the most essential 
step in such a proof. Surely this is sufficient evidence that he 
does not see how essential that step is. 

32. Whatever be the degree of Mr Spencer's own guilt, 
what has just been said will serve to illustrate the kind of 
fallacy which is constantly committed by those who profess 
to ' base ' Ethics on Evolution. But we must hasten to add 



that the view which Mr Spencer elsewhere most emphatically 
recommends is an utterly different one. It will be useful 
briefly to deal with this, in order that no injustice may be done 
to Mr Spencer. The discussion will be instructive partly from 
the lack of clearness, which Mr Spencer displays, as to the 
relation of this view to the ' evolutionistic ' one just described; 
and partly because there is reason to suspect that in this view 
also he is influenced by the naturalistic fallacy. 

We have seen that, at the end of his second chapter, 
Mr Spencer seems to announce that he has already proved 
certain characteristics of conduct to be a measure of its ethical 
value. He seems to think that he has proved this merely by 
considering the evolution of conduct ; and he has certainly not 
given any such proof, unless we are to understand that ' more 
evolved' is a mere synonym for 'ethically better.' He now 
promises merely to confirm this certain conclusion by shewing 
that it ' harmonizes with the leading moral ideas men have 
otherwise reached.' But, when we turn to his third chapter, we 
find that what he actually does is something quite different. 
He here asserts that to establish the conclusion 'Conduct is 
better in proportion as it is more evolved' an entirely new 
proof is necessary. That conclusion will be false, unless a 
certain proposition, of which we have heard nothing so far, is 
true unless it be true that life is pleasant on the whole. And 
the ethical proposition, for which he claims the support of the 
' leading moral ideas ' of mankind, turns out to be that ' life is 
good or bad, according as it does, or does not, bring a surplus 
of agreeable feeling ' ( 10). Here, then, Mr Spencer appears, 
not as an Evolutionist, but as a Hedonist, in Ethics. No 
conduct is better, because it is more evolved. Degree of 
evolution can at most be a criterion of ethical value; and it 
will only be that, if we can prove the extremely difficult 
generalisation that the more evolved is always, on the whole, 
the pleasanter. It is plain that Mr Spencer here rejects the 
naturalistic identification of ' better ' with ' more evolved ' ; but 
it is possible that he is influenced by another naturalistic 
identification that of ' good ' with ' pleasant.' It is possible 
that Mr Spencer is a naturalistic Hedonist. 


33. Let us examine Mr Spencer's own words. He begins 
this third chapter by an attempt to shew that we call 'good the 
acts conducive to life, in self or others, and bad those which 
directly or indirectly tend towards death, special or general ' 
( 9). And then he asks : ' Is there any assumption made ' in 
so calling them ? ' Yes ' ; he answers, ' an assumption of extreme 
significance has been made an assumption underlying all 
moral estimates. The question to be definitely raised and 
answered before entering on any ethical discussion, is the 
question of late much agitated Is life worth living ? Shall we 
take the pessimist view ? or shall we take the optimist view?... 
On the answer to this question depends every decision con- 
cerning the goodness or badness of conduct.' But Mr Spencer 
does not immediately proceed to give the answer. Instead of 
this, he asks another question : ' But now, have these irrecon- 
cilable opinions [pessimist and optimist] anything in common?' 
And this question he immediately answers by the statement : 
' Yes, there is one postulate in which pessimists and optimists 
agree. Both their arguments assume it to be self-evident that 
life is good or bad, according as it does, or does not, bring 
a surplus of agreeable feeling' ( 10). It is to the defence 
of this statement that the rest of the chapter is devoted ; and 
at the end Mr Spencer formulates his conclusion in the following 
words: 'No school can avoid taking for the ultimate moral 
aim a desirable state of feeling called by whatever name 
gratification, enjoyment, happiness. Pleasure somewhere, at 
some time, to some being or beings, is an inexpugnable element 
of the conception' ( 16 ad fin.}. 

Now in all this, there are two points to which I wish to call 
attention. The first is that Mr Spencer does not, after all, tell 
us clearly what he takes to be the relation of Pleasure and 
Evolution in ethical theory. Obviously he should mean that 
pleasure is the only intrinsically desirable thing; that other 
good things are ' good ' only in the sense that they are means 
to its existence. Nothing but this can properly be meant by 
asserting it to be ' the ultimate moral aim,' or, as he subsequently 
says ( 62 ad fin.), ' the .ultimately supreme end.' And, if this 
were so, it would follow that the more evolved conduct was 



better than the less evolved, only because, and in proportion 
as, it gave more pleasure. But Mr Spencer tells us that two 
conditions are, taken together, sufficient to prove the more 
evolved conduct better: (1) That it should tend to produce 
more life ; (2) That life should be worth living or contain 
a balance of pleasure. And the point I wish to emphasise is 
that if these conditions are sufficient, then pleasure cannot be 
the sole good. For though to produce more life is, if the 
second of Mr Spencer's propositions be correct, one way of 
producing more pleasure, it is not the only way. It is quite 
possible that a small quantity of life, which was more intensely 
and uniformly present, should give a greater quantity of 
pleasure than the greatest possible quantity of life that was 
only just 'worth living.' And in that case, on the hedonistic 
supposition that pleasure is the only thing worth having, we 
should have to prefer the smaller quantity of life and therefore, 
according to Mr Spencer, the less evolved conduct. Accord- 
ingly, if Mr Spencer is a true Hedonist, the fact that life gives 
a balance of pleasure is not, as he seems to think, sufficient 
to prove that the more evolved conduct is the better. If 
Mr Spencer means us to understand that it is sufficient, then 
his view about pleasure can only be, not that it is the sole good 
or 'ultimately supreme end,' but that a balance of it is a 
necessary constituent of the supreme end. In short, Mr Spencer 
seems to maintain that more life is decidedly better than less, 
if only it give a balance of pleasure : and that contention is 
inconsistent with the position that pleasure is 'the ultimate 
moral aim.' Mr Spencer implies that of two quantities of life, 
which gave an equal amount of pleasure, the larger would 
nevertheless be preferable to the less. And if this be so, then 
he must maintain that quantity of life or degree of evolution is 
itself an ultimate condition of value. He leaves us, therefore, 
in doubt whether he is not still retaining the Evolutionistic 
proposition, that the more evolved is better, simply because 
it is more evolved, alongside of the Hedonistic proposition, 
that the more pleasant is better, simply because it is more 

But the second question which we have to ask is : What 


reasons has Mr Spencer for assigning to pleasure the position 
which he does assign to it ? He tells us, we saw, that the 
' arguments ' both of pessimists and of optimists ' assume it to 
be self-evident that life is good or bad, according as it does, or 
does not, bring a surplus of agreeable feeling ' ; and he betters 
this later by telling us that ' since avowed or implied pessimists, 
and optimists of one or other shade, taken together constitute 
all men, it results that this postulate is universally accepted ' 
( 16). That these statements are absolutely false is, of course, 
quite obvious : but why does Mr Spencer think them true ? 
and, what is more important (a question which Mr Spencer does 
not distinguish too clearly from the last), why does he think 
the postulate itself to be true ? Mr Spencer himself tells us his 
' proof is ' that ' reversing the application of the words ' good 
and bad applying the word ' good ' to conduct, the ' aggregate 
results' of which are painful, and the word 'bad' to conduct, 
of which the ' aggregate results ' are pleasurable ' creates 
absurdities ' ( 16). He does not say whether this is because it 
is absurd to think that the quality, which we mean by the word 
'good,' really applies to what is painful. Even, however, if we 
assume him to mean this, and if we assume that absurdities 
are thus created, it is plain he would only prove that what 
is painful is properly thought to be so far bad, and what is 
pleasant to be so far good : it would not prove at all that 
pleasure is ' the supreme end.' There is, however, reason to 
think that part of what Mr Spencer means is the naturalistic 
fallacy : that he imagines ' pleasant ' or ' productive of pleasure ' 
is the very meaning of the word ' good,' and that ' the absurdity ' 
is due to this. It is at all events certain that he does not 
distinguish this possible meaning from that which would admit 
that 'good ' denotes an unique indefinable quality. The doctrine 
of naturalistic Hedonism is, indeed, quite strictly implied in his 
statement that ' virtue ' cannot ' be defined otherwise than in 
terms of happiness ' ( 13) ; and, though, as I remarked above, 
we cannot insist upon Mr Spencer's words as a certain clue to 
any definite meaning, that is only because he generally expresses 
by them several inconsistent alternatives the naturalistic 
fallacy being, in this case, one such alternative. It is certainly 


impossible to find any further reasons given by Mr Spencer for 
his conviction that pleasure both is the supreme end, and is 
universally admitted to be so. He seems to assume throughout 
that we must mean by good conduct what is productive of 
pleasure, and by bad what is productive of pain. So far, 
then, as he is a Hedonist, he would seem to be a naturalistic 

So much for Mr Spencer. It is, of course, quite possible 
that his treatment of Ethics contains many interesting and 
instructive remarks. It would seem, indeed, that Mr Spencer's 
main view, that of which he is most clearly and most often 
conscious, is that pleasure is the sole good, and that to consider 
the direction of evolution is by far the best criterion of the way 
in which we shall get most of it : and this theory, if he could 
establish that amount of pleasure is always in direct proportion 
to amount of evolution and also that it was plain what conduct 
was more evolved, would be a very valuable contribution to 
the science of Sociology ; it would even, if pleasure were the 
sole good, be a valuable contribution to Ethics. But the 
above discussion should have made it plain that, if what we 
want from an ethical philosopher is a scientific and systematic 
Ethics, not merely an Ethics professedly ' based on science ' ; 
if what we want is a clear discussion of the fundamental 
principles of Ethics, and a statement of the ultimate reasons 
why one way of acting should be considered better than 
another then Mr Spencer's ' Data of Ethics ' is immeasurably 
far from satisfying these demands. 

34. It remains only to state clearly what is definitely 
fallacious in prevalent views as to the relation of Evolution 
to Ethics in those views with regard to which it seems so 
uncertain how far Mr Spencer intends to encourage them. 
I proposed to confine the term ' Evolutionistic Ethics' to the 
view that we need only to consider the tendency of ' evolution ' 
in order to discover the direction in which we ought to go. ' 
This view must be carefully distinguished from certain others, 
which may be commonly confused with it. (1) It might, for 
instance, be held that the direction in which living things have 
hitherto developed is, as a matter of fact, the direction of 


progress. It might be held that the ' more evolved ' is, as 
a matter of fact, also better. And in such a view no fallacy is 
involved. But, if it is to give us any guidance as to how we 
ought to act in the future, it does involve a long and painful 
investigation of the exact points in which the superiority of 
the more evolved consists. We cannot assume that, because 
evolution is progress on the whole, therefore every point in 
which the more evolved differs from the less is a point in which 
it is better than the less. A simple consideration of the course 
of evolution will therefore, on this view, by no means suffice to 
inform us of the course we ought to pursue. We shall have to 
employ all the resources of a strictly ethical discussion in order 
to arrive at a correct valuation of the different results of 
evolution to distinguish the more valuable from the less 
valuable, and both from those which are no better than their 
causes, or perhaps even worse. In fact it is difficult to see how, 
on this view if all that be meant is that evolution has on the 
whole been a progress the theory of evolution can give any 
assistance to Ethics at all. The judgment that evolution has 
been a progress is itself an independent ethical judgment; and 
even if we take it to be more certain and obvious than any of the 
detailed judgments upon which it must logically depend for 
confirmation, we certainly cannot use it as a datum from which 
to infer details. It is, at all events, certain that, if this had 
been the only relation held to exist between Evolution and 
Ethics, no such importance would have been attached to the 
bearing of Evolution on Ethics as we actually find claimed for 
it. (2) The view, which, as I have said, seems to be Mr Spencer's 
main view, may also be held without fallacy. It may be held 
that the more evolved, though not itself the better, is a criterion, 
because a concomitant, of the better. But this view also 
obviously involves an exhaustive preliminary discussion of the 
fundamental ethical question what, after all, is better. That 
Mr Spencer entirely dispenses with such a discussion in support 
of his contention that pleasure is the sole good, I have pointed 
out; and that, if we attempt such a discussion, we shall arrive 
at no such simple result, I shall presently try to shew. If 
however the good is not simple, it is by no means likely that 


we shall be able to discover Evolution to be a criterion of it. 
We shall have to establish a relation between two highly 
complicated sets of data; and, moreover, if we had once settled 
what were goods, and what their comparative values, it is 
extremely unlikely that we should need to call in the aid of 
Evolution as a criterion of how to get the most. It is plain, 
then, again, that if this were the only relation imagined to 
exist between Evolution and Ethics, it could hardly have been 
thought to justify the assignment of any importance in Ethics 
to the theory of Evolution. Finally, (3) it may be held that, 
though Evolution gives us no help in discovering what results 
of our efforts will be best, it does give some help in discovering 
what it is possible to attain and what are the means to its 
attainment. That the theory really may be of service to Ethics 
in this way cannot be denied. But it is certainly not common 
to find this humble, ancillary bearing clearly and exclusively 
assigned to it. In the mere fact, then, that these non-fallacious 
views of the relation of Evolution to Ethics would give so very 
little importance to that relation, we have evidence that what 
is typical in the coupling of the two names is the fallacious 
view to which I propose to restrict the name ' Evolutionistic 
Ethics.' This is the view that we ought to move in the 
direction of evolution simply because it is the direction of 
evolution. That the forces of Nature are working on that side 
is taken as a presumption that it is the right side. That such 
a view, apart from metaphysical presuppositions, with which 
I shall presently deal, is simply fallacious, I have tried to shew. 
It can only rest on a confused belief that somehow the good 
simply means the side on which Nature is working. And it 
thus involves another confused belief which is very marked in 
Mr Spencer's whole treatment of Evolution. For, after all, is 
Evolution the side on which Nature is working? In the sense, 
which Mr Spencer gives to the term, and in any sense in which 
it can be regarded as a fact that the more evolved is higher, 
Evolution denotes only a temporary historical process. That 
things will permanently continue to evolve in the future, or 
that they have always evolved in the past, we have not the 
smallest reason to believe. For Evolution does not, in this 


sense, denote a natural law, like the law of gravity. Darwin's 
theory of natural selection does indeed state a natural law : it 
states that, given certain conditions, certain results will always 
happen. But Evolution, as Mr Spencer understands it and as 
it is commonly understood, denotes something very different. 
It denotes only a process which has actually occurred at a given 
time, because the conditions at the beginning of that time 
happened to be of a certain nature. That such conditions will 
always be given, or have always been given, cannot be assumed ; 
and it is only the process which, according to natural law, must 
follow from these conditions and no others, that appears to be 
also on the whole a progress. Precisely the same natural laws 
Darwin's, for instance would under other conditions render 
inevitable not Evolution not a development from lower to 
higher but the converse process, which has been called In- 
volution. Yet Mr Spencer constantly speaks of the process 
which is exemplified in the development of man as if it had 
all the augustness of a universal Law of Nature : whereas we 
have no reason to believe it other than a temporary accident, 
requiring not only certain universal natural laws, but also the 
existence of a certain state of things at a certain time. The 
only laws concerned in the matter are certainly such as, under 
other circumstances, would allow us to infer, not the develop- 
ment, but the extinction of man. And that circumstances will 
always be favourable to further development, that Nature will 
always work on the side of Evolution, we have no reason what- 
ever to believe. Thus the idea that Evolution throws important 
light on Ethits seems to be due to a double confusion. Our 
respect for the process is enlisted by the representation of it 
as the Law of Nature. But, on the other hand, our respect 
for Laws of Nature would be speedily diminished, did we not 
imagine that this desirable process was one of them. To suppose 
that a Law of Nature is therefore respectable, is to commit the 
naturalistic fallacy ; but no one, probably, would be tempted to 
commit it, unless something which is respectable, were repre- 
sented as a Law of Nature. If it were clearly recognised that 
there is no evidence for supposing Nature to be on the side of 
the Good, there would probably be less tendency to hold the 
opinion, which on other grounds is demonstrably false, that 


no such evidence is required. And if both false opinions were 
clearly seen to be false, it would be plain that Evolution has 
very little indeed to say to Ethics. 

35. In this chapter I have begun the criticism of certain 
ethical views, which seem to owe their influence mainly to the 
naturalistic fallacy the fallacy which consists in identifying 
the simple notion which we mean by ' good ' with some other 
notion. They are views which profess to tell us what is good 
in itself; and my criticism of them is mainly directed (1) to 
bring out the negative result, that we have no reason to suppose 
that which they declare to be the sole good, really to be so, 
(2) to illustrate further the positive result, already established 
in Chapter I, that the fundamental principles of Ethics must 
be synthetic propositions, declaring what things, and in what 
degree, possess a simple and unanalysable property which may 
be called 'intrinsic value' or 'goodness.' The chapter began 
(1) by dividing the views to be criticised into (a) those which, 
supposing 'good' to be defined by reference to some super- 
sensible reality, conclude that the sole good is to be found 
in such a reality, and may therefore be called ' Metaphysical,' 
(b) those which assign a similar position to some natural object, 
and may therefore be called 'Naturalistic.' Of naturalistic views, 
that which regards ' pleasure ' as the sole good has received far 
the fullest and most serious treatment and was therefore re- 
served for Chapter III : all other forms of Naturalism may be 
first dismissed, ;by taking typical examples (24 26). (2) As 
typical of naturalistic views, other than Hedonism, there was 
first taken the popular commendation of what is ' natural ' : it 
was pointed out that by ' natural ' there might here be meant 
either ' normal ' or ' necessary,' and that neither the ' normal ' 
nor the 'necessary' could be seriously supposed to be either 
always good or the only good things (27 28). (3) But a more 
important type, because one which claims to be capable of 
system, is to be found in ' Evolutionistic Ethics.' The influence 
of the fallacious opinion that to be ' better ' means to be ' more 
evolved' was illustrated by an examination of Mr Herbert 
Spencer's Ethics ; and it was pointed out that, but for the in- 
fluence of this opinion, Evolution could hardly have been supposed 
to have any important bearing upon Ethics (29 34). 



36. IN this chapter we have to deal with what is perhaps 
the most famous and the most widely held of all ethical prin- 
ciples the principle that nothing is good but pleasure. My 
chief reason for treating of this principle in this place is, as 
I said, that Hedonism appears in the main to be a form of 
Naturalistic Ethics : in other words, that pleasure has been so 
generally held to be the sole good, is almost entirely due to the 
fact that it has seemed to be somehow involved in the definition 
of ' good ' to be pointed out by the very meaning of the word. 
If this is so, then the prevalence of Hedonism has been mainly 
due to what I have called the naturalistic fallacy the failure 
to distinguish clearly that unique and indefinable quality which 
we mean by good. And that it is so, we have very strong 
evidence in the fact that, of all hedonistic writers, Prof. Sidgwick 
alone has clearly recognised that by ' good ' we do mean some- 
thing unanalysable, and has alone been led thereby to emphasise 
the fact that, if Hedonism be true, its claims to be so must 
be rested solely on its self-evidence that we must maintain 
' Pleasure is the sole good ' to be a mere intuition. It appeared 
to Prof. Sidgwick as a new discovery that what he calls the 
' method ' of Intuitionism must be retained as valid alongside 
of, and indeed as the foundation of, what he calls the alternative 
' methods ' of Utilitarianism and Egoism. And that it was a 
new discovery can hardly be doubted. In previous Hedonists 
we find no clear and consistent recognition of the fact that 
their fundamental proposition involves the assumption that a 


certain unique predicate can be directly seen to belong to 
pleasure alone among existents : they do not emphasise, as 
they could hardly have failed to have done had they perceived 
it, how utterly independent of all other truths this truth 
must be. 

Moreover it is easy to see how this unique position should 
have been assigned to pleasure without any clear consciousness 
of the assumption involved. Hedonism is, for a sufficiently 
obvious reason, the first conclusion at which any one who 
begins to reflect upon Ethics naturally arrives. It is very easy 
to notice the fact that we are pleased with things. The things 
we enjoy and the things we do not, form two unmistakable 
classes, to which our attention is constantly directed. But it 
is comparatively difficult to distinguish the fact that we approve 
a thing from the fact that we are pleased with it. Although, 
if we look at the two states of mind, we must see that they are 
different, even though they generally go together, it is very 
difficult to see in what respect they are different, or that the 
difference can in any connection be of more importance than 
the many other differences, which are so patent and yet so 
difficult to analyse, between one kind of enjoyment and another. 
It is very difficult to see that by 'approving' of a thing we 
mean feeling that it has a certain predicate the predicate, 
namely, which defines the peculiar sphere of Ethics ; whereas 
in the enjoyment of a thing no such unique object of thought 
is involved. Nothing is more natural than the vulgar mistake, 
which we find expressed in a recent book on Ethics 1 : 'The 
primary ethical fact is, we have said, that something is approved 
or disapproved : that is, in other words, the ideal representation 
of certain events in the way of sensation, perception, or idea, is 
attended with a feeling of pleasure or of pain.' In ordinary 
speech, ' I want this,' ' I like this,' ' I care about this ' are con- 
stantly used as equivalents for 'I think this good.' And in 
this way it is very natural to be led to suppose that there is no 
distinct class of ethical judgments, but only the class 'things 
enjoyed'; in spite of the fact, which is very clear, if not very 
common, that we do not always approve what we enjoy. It is 

1 A. E. Taylor's Problem of Conduct, p. 120. 


of course, very obvious that from the supposition that ' I think 
this good ' is identical with ' I am pleased with this/ it cannot 
be logically inferred that pleasure alone is good. But, on the 
other hand, it is very difficult to see what could be logically 
inferred from such a supposition ; and it seems natural enough 
that such an inference should suggest itself. A very little 
examination of what is commonly written on the subject will 
suffice to shew that a logical confusion of this nature is very 
common. Moreover the very commission of the naturalistic 
fallacy involves that those who commit it should not recognise 
clearly the meaning of the proposition ' This is good ' that 
they should not be able to distinguish this from other propo- 
sitions which seem to resemble it ; and, where this is so, it is, 
of course, impossible that its logical relations should be clearly 

37. There is, therefore, ample reason to suppose that 
Hedonism is in general a form of Naturalism that its accept- 
ance is generally due to the naturalistic fallacy. It is, indeed, 
only when we have detected this fallacy, when we have become 
clearly aware of the unique object which is meant by 'good,' 
that we are able to give to Hedonism the precise definition 
used above, ' Nothing is good but pleasure ' : and it may, there- 
fore, be objected that, in attacking this doctrine under the 
name of Hedonism, I am attacking a doctrine which has never 
really been held. But it is very common to hold a doctrine, 
without being clearly aware what it is you hold ; and though, 
when Hedonists argue in favour 'of what they call Hedonism, 
I admit that, in order to suppose their arguments valid, they 
must have before their minds something other than the doctrine 
I have defined, yet, in order to draw the conclusions that they 
draw, it is necessary that they should also have before their 
minds this doctrine. In fact, my justification for supposing 
that I shall have refuted historical Hedonism, if I refute the 
proposition ' Nothing is good but pleasure,' is, that although 
Hedonists have rarely stated their principle in this form and 
though its truth, in this form, will certainly not follow from 
their arguments, yet their ethical method will follow logically 
from nothing else. Any pretence of the hedonistic method, to 


discover to us practical truths which we should not otherwise 
have known, is founded on the principle that the course of 
action which will bring the greatest balance of pleasure is 
certainly the right one ; and, failing an absolute proof that the 
greatest balance of pleasure always coincides with the greatest 
balance of other goods, which it is not generally attempted to 
give, this principle can only be justified if pleasure be the 
sole good. Indeed it can hardly be doubted that Hedonists are 
distinguished by arguing, in disputed practical questions, as if 
pleasure were the sole good; and that it is justifiable, for this 
among other reasons, to take this as the ethical principle of 
Hedonism will, I hope, be made further evident by the whole 
discussion of this chapter. 

By Hedonism, then, I mean the doctrine that pleasure alone 
is good as an end ' good ' in the sense which I have tried to 
point out as indefinable. The doctrine that pleasure, among 
other things, is good as an end, is not Hedonism ; and I shall 
not dispute its truth. Nor again is the doctrine that other 
things, beside pleasure, are good as means, at all inconsistent 
with Hedonism : the Hedonist is not bound to maintain that 
' Pleasure alone is good,' if under good he includes, as we 
generally do, what is good as means to an end, as well as the 
end itself. In attacking Hedonism, I am therefore simply and 
solely attacking the doctrine that ' Pleasure alone is good as an 
end or in itself: I am not attacking the doctrine that 'Pleasure 
is good as an end or in itself,' nor am I attacking any doctrine 
whatever as to what are the best means we can take in order to 
obtain pleasure or any other end. Hedonists do, in general, 
recommend a course of conduct which is very similar to that 
which I should recommend. I do not quarrel with them about 
most of their practical conclusions, I quarrel only with the 
reasons by which they seem to think their conclusions can be 
supported ; and I do emphatically deny that the correctness of 
their conclusions is any ground for inferring the correctness of 
their principles. A correct conclusion may always be obtained 
by fallacious reasoning ; and the good life or virtuous maxims 
of a Hedonist afford absolutely no presumption that his ethical 
philosophy is also good. It is his ethical philosophy alone with 


which I am concerned : what I dispute is the excellence of his 
reasoning, not the excellence of his character as a man or even 
as moral teacher. It may be thought that my contention is 
unimportant, but that is no ground for thinking that I am not 
in the right. What I am concerned with is knowledge only 
that we should think correctly and so far arrive at some truth, 
however unimportant : I do not say that such knowledge will 
make us more useful members of society. If any one does not 
care for knowledge for its own sake, then I have nothing to say 
to him ; only it should not be thought that a lack of interest in 
what I have to say is any ground for holding it untrue. 

38. Hedonists, then, hold that all other things but pleasure, 
whether conduct or virtue or knowledge, whether life or nature 
or beauty, are only good as means to pleasure or for the sake of 
pleasure, never for their own sakes or as ends in themselves. 
This view was held by Aristippus, the disciple of Socrates, and 
by the Cyrenaic school which he founded ; it is associated with 
Epicurus and the Epicureans ; and it has been held in modern 
times, chiefly by those philosophers who call themselves ' Utili- 
tarians ' by Bentham, and by Mill, for instance. Herbert 
Spencer, as we have seen, also says he holds it ; and Professor 
Sidgwick, as we shall see, holds it too. 

Yet all these philosophers, as has been said, differ from one 
another more or less, both as to what they mean by Hedonism, 
and as to the reasons for which it is to be accepted as a true 
doctrine. The matter is therefore obviously not quite so simple 
as it might at first appear. My own object will be to shew 
quite clearly what the theory must imply, if it is made precise, 
if all confusions and inconsistencies are removed from the 
conception of it ; and, when this is done, I think it will appear 
that all the various reasons given for holding it to be true, are 
really quite inadequate ; that they are not reasons for holding 
Hedonism, but only for holding some other doctrine which is 
confused therewith. In order to attain this object I propose 
to take first Mill's doctrine, as set forth in his book called 
Utilitarianism : we shall find in Mill a conception of Hedonism, 
and arguments in its favour, which fairly represent those of 
a large class of hedonistic writers. To these representative 


conceptions and arguments grave objections, objections which 
appear to me to be conclusive, have been urged by Professor 
Sidgwick. These I shall try to give in my own words; and 
shall then proceed to consider and refute Professor Sidgwick's 
own much more precise conceptions and arguments. With this, 
I think, we shall have traversed the whole field of Hedonistic 
doctrine. It will appear, from the discussion, that the task of 
deciding what is or is not good in itself is by no means an easy 
one ; and in this way the discussion will afford a good example 
of the method which it is necessary to pursue in attempting to 
arrive at the truth with regard to this primary class of ethical 
principles. In particular it will appear that two principles of 
method must be constantly kept in mind : (1) that the natural- 
istic fallacy must not be committed ; (2) that the distinction 
between means and ends must be observed. 

39. I propose, then, to begin by an examination of Mill's 
Utilitarianism. That is a book which contains an admirably 
clear and fair discussion of many ethical principles and methods. 
Mill exposes not a few simple mistakes which are very likely to 
be made by those who approach ethical problems without much 
previous reflection. But what I am concerned with is the 
mistakes which Mill himself appears to have made, and these 
only so far as they concern the Hedonistic principle. Let me 
repeat what that principle is. It is, I said, that pleasure is the 
only thing at which we ought to aim, the only thing that is 
good as an end and for its own sake. And now let us turn to 
Mill and see whether he accepts this description of the question 
at issue. ' Pleasure,' he says at the outset, ' and freedom from 
pain, are the only things desirable as ends' (p. 10 1 ); and again, 
at the end of his argument, 'To think of an object as desirable 
(unless for the sake of its consequences) and to think of it as 
pleasant are one and the same thing' (p. 58). These statements, 
taken together, and apart from certain confusions which are 
obvious in them, seem to imply the principle I have stated ; 
and if I succeed in shewing that Mill's reasons for them do not 
prove them, it must at least be admitted that I have not been 
fighting with shadows or demolishing a man of straw. 
1 My references are to the 13th edition, 1897. 


It will be observed that Mill adds 'absence of pain' to 
'pleasure' in his first statement, though not in his second. 
There is, in this, a confusion, with which, however, we need not 
deal. I shall talk of 'pleasure' alone, for the sake of conciseness ; 
but all my arguments will apply a, fortiori to 'absence of pain': 
it is easy to make the necessary substitutions. 

Mill holds, then, that 'happiness is desirable, and the only 
thing desirable^-, as an end; all other things being only desirable 
as means to that end' (p. 52). Happiness he has already 
defined as 'pleasure, and the absence of pain' (p. 10); he does 
not pretend that this is more than an arbitrary verbal defini- 
tion; and, as such, I have not a word -to say against it. His 
principle, then, is 'pleasure is the only thing desirable,' if I 
may be allowed, when I say 'pleasure/ to include in that word 
(so far as necessary) absence of pain. And now what are his 
reasons for holding that principle to be true? He has already 
.told us (p. 6) that 'Questions of ultimate ends are not amenable 
to direct proof. Whatever can be proved to be good, must be 
so by being shewn to be a means to something admitted to be 
good without proof.' With this, I perfectly agree: indeed the 
chief object of my first chapter was to shew that this is so. 
Anything which is good as an end must be admitted to be good 
without proof. We are agreed so far. Mill even uses the same 
examples which I used in my second chapter. 'How,' he says, 
'is it possible to prove that health is good?' 'What proof is it 
possible to give that pleasure is good?' Well, in Chapter IV, 
in which he deals with the proof of his Utilitarian principle, 
Mill repeats the above statement in these words: 'It has 
already,' he says, 'been remarked, that questions of ultimate 
ends do not admit of proof, in the ordinary acceptation of the 
term' (p. 52). 'Questions about ends,' he goes on in this same 
passage, 'are, in other words, questions what things are desir- 
able.' I am quoting these repetitions, because they make it 
plain what otherwise might have been doubted, that Mill is using 
the words 'desirable' or 'desirable as an end' as absolutely and 
precisely equivalent to the words 'good as an end.' We are, 

1 My italics. 


then, now to hear, what reasons he advances for this doctrine 
that pleasure alone is good as an end. 

40. 'Questions about ends,' he says (pp. 52 3), 'are, in other 
words, questions what things are desirable. The utilitarian 
doctrine is, that happiness is desirable, and the only thing 
desirable, as an end; all other things being only desirable as 
means to that end. What ought to be required of this doctrine 
what conditions is it requisite that the doctrine should fulfil 
to make good its claim to be believed? 

'The only proof capable of being given that a thing is visible, 
is that people actually see it. The only proof that a sound is 
audible, is that people hear it; and so of the other sources of 
our experience. In like manner, I apprehend, the sole evidence 
it is possible to produce that anything is desirable, is that 
people do actually desire it. If the end which the utilitarian 
doctrine proposes to itself were not, in theory and in practice, 
acknowledged to be an end, nothing could ever convince any 
person that it was so. No reason can be given why the general 
happiness is desirable, except that each person, so far as he 
believes it to be attainable, desires his own happiness. This, 
however, being the fact, we have not only all the proof which 
the case admits of, but all which it is possible to require, that 
happiness is a good: that each person's happiness is a good to 
that person, and .the general happiness, therefore, a good to the 
aggregate of all persons. Happiness has made out its title as 
one of the ends of conduct, and consequently one of the criteria 
of morality.' 

There, that is enough. That is my first point. Mill has 
made as naive and artless a use of the naturalistic fallacy as 
anybody could desire. 'Good,' he tells us, means 'desirable,' 
and you can only find out what is desirable by seeking to find 
out what is actually desired. This is, of course, only one step 
towards the proof of Hedonism; for it may be, as Mill goes on 
to say, that other things beside pleasure are desired. Whether or 
not pleasure is the only thing desired is, as Mill himself admits 
(p. 58), a psychological question, to which we shall presently 
proceed. The important step for Ethics is this one just taken, 
the step which pretends to prove that 'good' means 'desired.' 


Well, the fallacy in this step is so obvious, that it is quite 
wonderful how Mill failed to see it. The fact is that 'desirable' 
does not mean 'able to be desired' as 'visible' means 'able to be 
seen.' The desirable means simply what ought to be desired or 
deserves to be desired; just as the detestable means not what 
I can be but what ought to be detested and the damnable what 
deserves to be damned. Mill has, then, smuggled in, under 
cover of the word 'desirable,' the very notion about which he 
ought to be quite clear. 'Desirable' does indeed mean 'what it 
is good to desire'; but when this is understood, it is no longer 
plausible to say that our only test of that, is what is actually 
desired. Is it merely a tautology when" the Prayer Book talks 
of good desires? Are not bad desires also possible? Nay, \\v 
find Mill himself talking of a 'better and nobler object of 
desire' (p. 10), as if, after all, what is desired were not ipso 
facto good, and good in proportion to the amount it is desired. 
Moreover, if the desired is ipso facto the good ; then the good 
is ipso facto the motive of our actions, and there can be no 
question of finding motives for doing it, as Mill is at such pains 
to do. If Mill's explanation of 'desirable' be true, then his 
statement (p. 26) that the rule of action may be confounded 
with the motive of it is untrue: for the motive of action will 
then be according to him ipso facto its rule; there can be no 
distinction between the two, and therefore no confusion, and 
thus he has contradicted himself flatly. These are specimens 
of the contradictions, which, -as I have tried to shew, must 
always follow from the use of the naturalistic fallacy; and 
I hope I need now say no more about the matter. 

41. Well, then, the first step by which Mill has attempted 
to establish his Hedonism is simply fallacious. He has attempted 
to establish the identity of the good with the desired, by 
confusing the proper sense of 'desirable/ in which it denotes that 
which it is good to desire, with the sense which it would bear, 
if it were analogous to such words as 'visible.' If 'desirable' is 
to be identical with 'good,' then it must bear one sense; and 
if it is to be identical with 'desired,' then it must bear quite 
another sense. And yet to Mill's contention that the desired is 
necessarily good, it is quite essential that these two senses of 



'desirable' should be the same. If he holds they are the same, 
then he has contradicted himself elsewhere; if he holds they 
are not the same, then the first step in his proof of Hedonism is 
absolutely worthless. 

But now we must deal with the second step. Having proved, 
as he thinks, that the good means the desired, Mill recognises 
that, if he is further to maintain that pleasure alone is good, 
he must prove that pleasure alone is really desired. This 
doctrine that 'pleasure alone is the object of all our desires' 
is the doctrine which Prof. Sidgwick has called Egychological 
Hedonism: and it is a doctrine which most eminent psycho- 
logists are now agreed in rejecting. But it is a necessary step 
in the proof of any such Naturalistic Hedonism as Mill's; and 
it is so commonly held, by people not expert either in psychology 
or in philosophy, that I wish to treat it at some length. It will 
be seen that Mill does not hold it in this bare form. Haadmits 
that other things than pleasure are desired; and this admission 
is at once a contradiction of his Hedonism. One of the shifts 
by which he seeks to evade this contradiction we shall after- 
wards consider. But some may think that no such shifts are 
needed : they may say of Mill, what Callicles says of Polus in 
the Gorgias 1 , that he has made this fatal admission through 
a most unworthy fear of appearing paradoxical; that they, on 
the other hand, will have the courage of their convictions, and 
will not be ashamed to go to any lengths of paradox, in defence 
of what they hold to be the truth. 

42. Well, then, we are supposing it held that pleasure is 
the object of all desire, that it is the universal end of all human 
activity. Now I suppose it will not be denied that people are 
commonly said to desire other things: for instance, we usually 
talk of desiring food and drink, of desiring money, approbation, 
fame. The question, then, must be of what is meant by desire, 
and by the object of desire. There is obviously asserted some 
sort of necessary or universal relation between something which 
is called desire, and another thing which is called pleasure. The 
question is of what sort this relation is; whether in conjunction 
with the naturalistic fallacy above mentioned, it will justify 

1 481 c 487 B. 


Hedonism. Now I am not prepared to deny that there is some 
universal relation between pleasure and desire ; but I hope to 
shew, that, if there is, it is of such sort as will rather make 
against than for Hedonism. It is urged that pleasure is always 
the object of desire, and I am ready to admit that pleasure is 
always, in part at least, the cause of desire. But this distinction 
is very important. Both views might be expressed in the same 
language ; both might be said to hold that whenever we desire, 
we always desire because of some pleasure : if I asked my 
supposed Hedonist, ' Why do you desire that ? ' he might 
answer, quite consistently with his contention, ' Because there 
is pleasure there,' and if he asked me the same question, I 
might answer, equally consistently with my contention, ' Because 
there is pleasure here.' Only our two answers would not mean 
the same thing. It is this use of the same language to denote 
quite different facts, which I believe to be the chief cause why 
Psychological Hedonism is so often held, just as it was also the 
cause of Mill's naturalistic fallacy. 

Let us try to analyse the psychological state which is called 
'desire.' That name is usually confined to a state of mind in 
which the idea of some object or event, not yet existing, is 
present to us. Suppose, for instance, I am desiring a glass of 
port wine. I have the idea of drinking such a glass before my 
mind, although I am not yet drinking it. Well, how does 
pleasure enter in to this relation ? My theory is that it enters 
in, in this way. The idea of the drinking causes a feeling of 
pleasure in my mind, which helps to produce that state 
of incipient activity, which is called 'desire.' It is, therefore, 
because of a pleasure, which I already have the pleasure 
excited by a mere idea that I desire the wine, which I have 
not. And I am ready to admit that a pleasure of this kind, an 
actual pleasure, is always among the causes of every desire, and 
not only of every desire, but of every mental activity, whether 
conscious or sub-conscious. I am ready to admit this, I say : 
I cannot vouch that it is the true psychological doctrine ; but, 
at all events, it is not primd facie quite absurd. And now, 
what is the other doctrine, the doctrine which I am supposing 
held, and which is at all events essential to Mill's argument ? 


It is this. That when I desire the wine, it is not the wine 
which I desire but the pleasure which I expect to get from it. 
In other words, the doctrine is that the idea of a pleasure not 
actual is always necessary to cause desire ; whereas my doctrine 
Avas that the actual pleasure caused by the idea of something 
else was always necessary -to cause desire. It is these two 
different theories which I suppose the Psychological Hedonists 
to confuse : the confusion is, as Mr Bradley puts it 1 , between ' a 
pleasant thought ' and ' the thought of a pleasure.' It is in fact 
only where the latter, the ' thought of a pleasure,' is present, 
that pleasure can be said to be the object of desire, or the motive 
to action. On the other hand, when only a pleasant thought is 
present, as, I admit, may always be the case, then it is the object 
of the thought that which we are thinking about which is 
the object of desire and the motive to action ; and the pleasure, 
which that thought excites, may, indeed, cause our desire or 
move us to action, but it is not our end or object nor our 

Well, I hope this distinction is sufficiently clear. Now let 
us see how it bears upon Ethical Hedonism. I assume it to be 
perfectly obvious that the idea of the object of desire is not 
always and only the idea of a pleasure. In the first place, 
plainly, we are not always conscious of expecting pleasure, 
when we desire a thing. We may be only conscious of the 
thing which we desire, and may be impelled to make for it 
at once, without any calculation as to whether it will bring us 
pleasure or pain. And, in the second place, even when we do 
expect pleasure, it can certainly be very rarely pleasure only 
which we desire. For instance, granted that, when I desire my 
glass of port wine, I have also an idea of the pleasure I expect 
from it, plainly that pleasure cannot be the only object of my 
desire; the port wine must be included in my object, else 
I might be led by my desire to take wormwood instead of 
wine. If the desire were directed solely towards the pleasure, 
it could not lead me to take the wine ; if it is to take a definite 
direction, it is absolutely necessary that the idea of the object, 
from which the pleasure is expected, should also be present and 
1 Ethical Studies, p. 232. 


should control my activity. The theory then that what is 
desired is always and only pleasure must break down: it is 
impossible to prove that pleasure alone is good, by that line 
of argument. But, if we substitute for this theory, that other, 
possibly true, theory, that pleasure is always the cause of desire 1 , 
then all the plausibility of our ethical doctrine that pleasure 
alone is good straightway disappears. For in this case, pleasure 
is not what I desire, it is not what I want : it is something 
which I already have, before I can want anything. And can 
any one feel inclined to maintain, that that which I already 
have, while I am still desiring something else, is always and 
alone the good? 

43. But now let us return to consider another of Mill's 
arguments for his position that ' happiness is the sole end of 
human action.' Mill admits, as I have said, that pleasure is 
not the only thing we actually desire. ' The desire of virtue,' 
he says, ' is not as universal, but it is as authentic a fact, as the 
desire of happiness 1 .' And again, ' Money is, in many cases, 
desired in and for itself 2 .' These admissions are, of course, in 
naked and glaring contradiction with his argument that pleasure 
is the only thing desirable, because it is the only thing desired. 
How then does Mill even attempt to avoid this contradiction ? 
His chief argument seems to be that 'virtue.' 'money' and 
other such objects, when they are thus desired in and for 
themselves, are desired only as 'a part of happiness 3 .' Now 
what does this mean ? Happiness, as we saw, has been defined 
by Mill, as 'pleasure and the absence of pain.' Does Mill mean 
to say that ' money,' these actual coins, which he admits to be 
lesired in and for themselves, are a part either of pleasure or of 
the absence of pain ? Will he maintain that those coins them- 
selves are in my mind, and actually a part of my pleasant 
feelings ? If this is to be said, all words are useless : nothing 
can possibly be distinguished from anything else ; if these two 
things are not distinct, what on earth is ? We shall hear 
next that this table is really and truly the same thing as 
this room ; that a cab-horse is in fact indistinguishable from 
St Paul's Cathedral ; that this book of Mill's which I hold in 

i p. 53. 2 p. 55. 3 pp. 567. 


my hand, because it was his pleasure to produce it, is now and 
at this moment a part of the happiness which he felt many 
years ago and which has so long ceased to be. Pray consider 
a moment what this contemptible nonsense really means. 
' Money,' says Mill, ' is only desirable as a means to happiness.' 
Perhaps so ; but what then ? ' Why,' says Mill, ' money is 
undoubtedly desired for its own sake.' 'Yes, go on,' say we. 
' Well,' says Mill, ' if money is desired for its own sake, it must 
be desirable as an end-in-itself : I have said so myself.' 'Oh,' 
say we, ' but you also said just now that it was only desirable 
as a means.' ' I own I did,' says Mill, ' but I will try to patch 
up matters, by saying that what is only a means to an end, is 
the same thing as a part of that end. I daresay the public won't 
notice.' And the public haven't noticed. Yet this is certainly 
what Mill has done. He has broken down the distinction 
between means and ends, upon the precise observance of which 
his Hedonism rests. And he has been compelled to do this, 
because he has failed to distinguish 'end' in the sense of 
what is desirable, from ' end ' in the sense of what is desired : 
a distinction which, nevertheless, both the present argument 
and his whole book presupposes. This is a consequence of the 
naturalistic fallacy. 

44. Mill, then, has nothing better to say for himself than 
this. His two fundamental propositions are, in his own words, 
'that to think of an object as desirable (unless for the sake of 
its consequences), and to think of it as pleasant, are one and the 
same thing ; and that to desire anything except in proportion 
as the idea of it is pleasant, is a physical and metaphysical 
impossibility 1 .' Both of these statements are, we have seen, 
merely supported by fallacies. The first seems to rest on the 
naturalistic fallacy ; the second rests partly on this, partly on 
the fallacy of confusing ends and means, and partly on the 
fallacy of confusing a pleasant thought with the thought of 
a pleasure. His very language shews this. For that the idea 
of a thing is pleasant, in his second clause, is obviously meant 
to be the same fact which he denotes by ' thinking of it as 
pleasant,' in his first. 

1 p. 58. 


Accordingly, Mill's arguments for the proposition that 
pleasure is the sole good, and our refutation of those argu- 
ments, may be summed up as follows : 

First of all, he takes 'the desirable,' which he uses as 
a synonym for ' the good/ to mean what can be desired. The 
test, again, of what can be desired, is, according to him, what 
actually is desired: if, therefore, he says, we can find some 
one thing which is always and alone desired, that thing will 
necessarily be the only thing that is desirable, the only thing 
that is good as an end. In this argument the naturalistic 
fallacy is plainly involved. That fallacy, I explained, consists 
in the contention that good means nothing but some simple or 
complex notion, that can be defined in terms of natural qualities. 
In Mill's case, good is thus supposed to mean simply what is 
desired ; and what is desired is something which can thus be 
defined in natural terms. Mill tells us that we ought to desire 
something (an ethical proposition), because we actually do desire 
it ; but if his contention that ' I ought to desire ' means nothing 
but ' I do desire ' were true, then he is only entitled to say, ' We 
do desire so and so, because we do desire it ' ; and that is not 
an ethical proposition at all; it is a mere tautology. The 
whole object of Mill's book is to help us to discover what we 
ought to do ; but, in fact, by attempting to define the meaning 
of this ' ought,' he has completely debarred himself from ever 
fulfilling that object : he has confined himself to telling us what 
we do do. 

Mill's first argument then is that, because good means 
desired, therefore the desired is good ; but having thus arrived 
at an ethical conclusion, by denying that any ethical conclusion 
is possible, he still needs another argument to make his con- 
clusion a basis for Hedonism. He has to prove that we always 
do desire pleasure or freedom from pain, and that we never 
desire anything else whatever. This second doctrine, which 
Professor Sidgwick has called Psychological Hedonism, I accord- 
ingly discussed. I pointed out how obviously untrue it is that 
we never desire anything but pleasure ; and how there is not 
a shadow of ground for saying even that, whenever we desire 
anything, we always desire pleasure as well as that thing. 


I attributed the obstinate belief in these untruths partly to 
a confusion between the cause of desire and the object of desire. 
It may, I said, be true that desire can never occur unless it be 
preceded by some actual pleasure ; but even if this is true, it 
obviously gives no ground for saying that the object of desire is 
always some future pleasure. By the object of desire is meant 
that, of which the idea causes desire in us ; it is some pleasure, 
which we anticipate, some pleasure which we have not got, 
which is the object of desire, whenever we do desire pleasure. 
And any actual pleasure, which may be excited by the idea of 
this anticipated pleasure, is obviously not the same pleasure as 
that anticipated pleasure, of which only the idea is actual. This 
actual pleasure is not what we want ; what we want is always 
something which we have not got; and to say that pleasure 
always causes us to want is quite a different thing from saying 
that what we want is always pleasure. 

Finally, we saw, Mill admits all this. He insists that we 
do actually desire other things than pleasure, and yet he says 
we do really desire nothing else. He tries to explain away this 
contradiction, by confusing together two notions, which he has 
before carefully distinguished the notions of means and of end. 
He now says that a means to an end is the same thing as a 
part of that end. To this last fallacy special attention should 
be given, as our ultimate decision with regard to Hedonism will 
largely turn upon it. 

45. It is this ultimate decision with regard to Hedonism 
at which we must now try to arrive. So far I have been 
only occupied with refuting Mill's naturalistic arguments for 
Hedonism ; but the doctrine that pleasure alone is desirable 
may still be true, although Mill's fallacies cannot prove it 
so. This is the question which we have now to face. This 
proposition, ' pleasure alone is good or desirable,' belongs un- 
doubtedly to that class of propositions, to which Mill at first 
rightly pretended it belonged, the class of first principles, which 
are not amenable to direct proof. But in this case, as he 
also rightly says, ' considerations may be presented capable of 
determining the intellect either to give or withhold its assent to 
the doctrine ' (p. 7). It is such considerations that Professor 


Sidgwick presents, and such also that I shall try to present 
for the opposite view. This proposition that ' pleasure alone 
is good as an end/ the fundamental proposition of Ethical 
Hedonism, will then appear, in Professor Sidgwick's language, 
as an object of intuition. I shall try to shew you why my 
intuition denies it, just as his intuition affirms it. It may 
always be true notwithstanding; neither intuition can prove 
whether it is true or not ; I am bound to be satisfied, if I can 
' present considerations capable of determining the intellect ' to 
reject it. 

Now it may be said that this is a very unsatisfactory state 
of things. It is indeed; but it is important to make a dis- 
tinction between two different reasons, which may be given 
for calling it unsatisfactory. Is it unsatisfactory because our 
principle cannot be proved ? or is it unsatisfactory merely 
because we do not agree with one another about it ? I am 
inclined to think that the latter is the chief reason. For the 
mere fact that in certain cases proof is impossible does not 
usually give us the least uneasiness. For instance, nobody can 
prove that this is a chair beside me; yet I do not suppose 
that any one is much dissatisfied for that reason. We all agree 
that it is a chair, and that is enough to content us, although 
it is quite possible we may be wrong. A madman, of course, 
might come in and say that it is not a chair but an elephant. 
We could not prove that he was wrong, and the fact that he 
did not agree with us might then begin to make us uneasy. 
Much more, then, shall we be uneasy, if some one, whom we 
do not think to be mad, disagrees with us. We shall try to 
argue with him, and we shall probably be content if we lead 
him to agree with us, although we shall not have proved our 
point. We can only persuade him by shewing him that our 
view is consistent with something else which he holds to be 
true, whereas his original view is contradictory to it. But it 
will be impossible to prove that that something else, which 
we both agree to be true, is really so; we shall be satisfied 
to have settled the matter in dispute by means of it, merely 
because we are agreed on it. In short, our dissatisfaction in these 
cases is almost always of the type felt by the poor lunatic in 


the story. ' I said the world was mad,' says he, ' and the 
world said that I was mad; and, confound it, they outvoted 
me.' It is, I say, almost always such a disagreement, and not 
the impossibility of proof, which makes us call the state of 
things unsatisfactory. For, indeed, who can prove that proof 
itself is a warrant of truth ? We are all agreed that the laws 
of logic are true and therefore we accept a result which is 
proved by their means; but such a proof is satisfactory to us 
only because we are all so fully agreed that it is a warrant 
of truth. And yet we cannot, by the nature of the case, prove 
that we are right in being so agreed. 

Accordingly, I do not think we need be much distressed 
by our admission that we cannot prove whether pleasure alone 
is good or not. We may be able to arrive at an agreement 
notwithstanding: and if so, I think it will be satisfactory. 
And yet I am not very sanguine about our prospects of such 
satisfaction. Ethics, and philosophy in general, have always 
been in a peculiarly unsatisfactory state. There has been no 
agreement about them, as there is about the existence of chairs 
and lights and benches. I should therefore be a fool if I 
hoped to settle one great point of controversy, now and once 
for all. It is extremely improbable I shall convince. It would 
be highly presumptuous even to hope that in the end, say 
two or three centuries hence, it will be agreed that pleasure 
is not the sole good. Philosophical questions are so difficult, 
the problems they raise are so complex, that no one can fairly 
expect, now, any more than in the past, to win more than a 
very limited assent. And yet I confess that the considerations 
which I am about to present appear to me to be absolutely 
convincing. I do think that they ought to convince, if only I 
can put them well. In any case, I can but try. I shall try 
now to put an end to that unsatisfactory state of things, of 
which I have been speaking. I shall try to produce an agree- 
ment that the fundamental principle of Hedonism is very like 
an absurdity, by shewing what it must mean, if it is clearly 
thought out, and how that clear meaning is in conflict with 
other beliefs, which will, I hope, not be so easily given up. 

46. Well, then, we now proceed to discuss Intuitionistic 


Hedonism. And the beginning of this discussion marks, it 
is to be observed, a turning-point in my ethical method. The 
point I have been labouring hitherto, the point that 'good is 
indefinable/ and that to deny this involves a fallacy, is a point 
capable of strict proof: for to deny it involves contradictions. 
But now we are coming to the question, for the sake of 
answering which Ethics exists, the question what things or 
qualities are good. Of any answer to this question no direct 
proof is possible, and that, just because of our former answer, 
as to the meaning of good, direct proof was possible. We are 
now confined to the hope of what Mill calls 'indirect proof/ 
the hope of determining one another's intellect ; and we are 
now so confined, just because, in the matter of the former 
question we are not so confined. Here, then, is an intuition 
to be submitted to our verdict the intuition that 'pleasure 
alone is good as an end good in and for itself.' 

47. Well, in this connection it seems first desirable to 
touch on another doctrine of Mill's another doctrine which, 
in the interest of Hedonism, Professor Sidgwick has done very 
wisely to reject. This is the doctrine of ' difference of quality 
in pleasures.' 'If I am asked/ says Mill 1 , 'what I mean by 
difference of quality in pleasures, or what makes one pleasure 
more valuable than another, merely as a pleasure, except its 
being greater in amount, there is but one possible answer. 
Of two pleasures, if there be one to which all or almost all who 
have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective 
of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it, that is the more 
desirable pleasure. If one of the two is, by those who are 
competently acquainted with both, placed so far above the other 
that they prefer it, even though knowing it to be attended 
with a greater amount of discontent, and would not resign it 
for any quantity of the other pleasure which their nature is 
capable of, we are justified in ascribing to the preferred enjoy- 
ment a superiority in quality, so far outweighing quantity as 
to render it, in comparison, of small account/ 

Now it is well known that Bentham rested his case for 
Hedonism on ' quantity of pleasure ' alone. It was his maxim, 

1 p. 12. 


that 'quantity of pleasure being equal, pushpin is as good as 
poetry.' And Mill apparently considers Bentham to have 
proved that nevertheless poetry is better than pushpin ; that 
poetry does produce a greater quantity of pleasure. But yet, 
says Mill, the Utilitarians 'might have taken the other and, as 
it may be called, higher ground, with entire consistency' (p. 11). 
Now we see from this that Mill acknowledges ' quality of 
pleasure ' to be another or different ground for estimating 
pleasures, than Bentham 's quantity; and moreover, by that 
question-begging ' higher,' which he afterwards translates into 
1 superior,' he seems to betray an uncomfortable feeling, that, 
after all, if you take quantity of pleasure for your only standard, 
something may be wrong and you may deserve to be called 
a pig. And it may presently appear that you very likely 
would deserve that name. But, meanwhile, I only wish to 
shew that Mill's admissions as to quality of pleasure are 
either inconsistent with his Hedonism, or else afford no other 
ground for it than would be given by mere quantity of pleasure. 
It will be seen that Mill's test for one pleasure's superiority 
in quality over another is the preference of most people who 
have experienced both. A pleasure so preferred, he holds, is 
more desirable. But then, as we have seen, he holds that ' to 
think of an object as desirable and to think of it as pleasant 
are one and the same thing ' (p. 58). He holds, therefore, that 
the preference of experts merely proves that one pleasure is 
pleasanter than another. But if that is so, how can he 
distinguish this standard from the standard of quantity of 
pleasure ? Can one pleasure be pleasanter than another, except 
in the sense that it gives more pleasure ? ' Pleasant ' must, if 
words are to have any meaning at all, denote some one quality 
common to all the things that are pleasant ; and, if so, then 
one thing can only be more pleasant than another, according 
as it has more or less of this one quality. But, then, let us 
try the other alternative, and suppose that Mill does not 
seriously mean that this preference of experts merely proves 
one pleasure to be pleasanter than another. Well, in this case 
what does ' preferred ' mean ? It cannot mean ' more desired,' 
since, as we know, the degree of desire is always, according 


to Mill, in exact proportion to the degree of pleasantness. 
But, in that case, the basis of Mill's Hedonism collapses, for 
he is admitting that one thing may be preferred over another, 
and thus proved more desirable, although it is not more desired. 
In this case Mill's judgment of preference is just a judgment 
of that intuitional kind which I have been contending to be 
necessary to establish the hedonistic or any other principle. 
It is a direct judgment that one thing is more desirable, or 
better than another; a judgment utterly independent of all 
considerations as to whether one thing is more desired or 
pleasanter than another. This is to admit that good is good 
and indefinable. 

48. And note another point that is brought out by this dis- 
cussion. Mill's judgment of preference, so far from establishing 
the principle that pleasure alone is good, is obviously incon- 
sistent with it. He admits that experts can judge whether 
one pleasure is more desirable than another, because pleasures 
differ in quality. But what does this mean ? If one pleasure 
can differ from another in quality, that means, that a pleasure 
is something complex, something composed, in fact, of pleasure 
in addition to that which produces pleasure. For instance, Mill 
speaks of 'sensual indulgences' as ' lower pleasures.' But what 
is a sensual indulgence ? It is surely a certain excitement of 
some sense together with the pleasure caused by such excite- 
ment. Mill, therefore, in admitting that a sensual indulgence 
can be directly judged to be lower than another pleasure, in 
which the degree of pleasure involved may be the same, is 
admitting that other things may be good; or bad, quite 
independently of the pleasure which accompanies them. A 
pleasure is, in fact, merely a misleading term which conceals 
the fact that what we are dealing with is not pleasure but 
something else, which may indeed necessarily produce pleasure, 
but is nevertheless quite distinct from it. 

Mill, therefore, in thinking that to estimate quality of 
pleasure is quite consistent with his hedonistic principle that 
pleasure and absence of pain alone are desirable as ends, has 
again committed the fallacy of confusing ends and means. For 
take even the most favourable supposition of his meaning; let 


us suppose that by a pleasure he does not mean, as his words 
imply, that which produces pleasure and the pleasure produced. 
Let us suppose him to mean that there are various kinds of 
pleasure, in the sense in which there are various kinds of 
colour blue, red, green, etc. Even in this case, if we are to 
say that our end is colour alone, then, although it is impossible 
we should have colour without having some particular colour, 
yet the particular colour we must have, is only a means to our 
having colour, if colour is really our end. And if colour is our 
only possible end, as Mill says pleasure is, then there can be 
no possible reason for preferring one colour to another, red, for 
instance, to blue, except that the one is more of a colour than 
the other. Yet the opposite of this is what Mill is attempting 
to hold with regard to pleasures. 

Accordingly a consideration of Mill's view that some pleasures 
are superior to others in quality brings out one point which 
may 'help to determine the intellect' with regard to the 
intuition 'Pleasure is the only good.' For it brings out the fact 
that if you say 'pleasure,' you must mean 'pleasure': you must 
mean some one thing common to all different ' pleasures,' some 
one thing, which may exist in different degrees, but which 
cannot differ in kind. I have pointed out that, if you say, as 
Mill does, that quality of pleasure is to be taken into account, 
then you are no longer holding that pleasure alone is good as an 
end, since you imply that something else, something which 
is not present in all pleasures, is also good as an end. The 
illustration I have given from colour expresses this point in its 
most acute form. It is plain that if you say ' Colour alone is 
good as an end,' then you can give no possible reason for 
preferring one colour to another. Your only standard of good 
and bad will then be 'colour'; and since red and blue both 
conform equally to this, the only standard, you can have no 
other whereby to judge whether red is better than blue. It is 
true that you cannot have colour unless you also have one or all 
of the particular colours : they, therefore, if colour is the end, 
will all be good as means, but none of them can be better than 
another even as a means, far less can any one of them be 
regarded as an end in itself. Just so with pleasure : If we do 


really mean 'Pleasure alone is good as an end/ then we must 
agree with Bentham that 'Quantity of pleasure being equal, 
pushpin is as good as poetry.' To have thus dismissed Mill's 
reference to quality of pleasure, is therefore to have made one 
step in the desired direction. The reader will now no longer 
be prevented from agreeing with me, by any idea that the 
hedonistic principle 'Pleasure alone is good as an end' is 
consistent with the view that one pleasure may be of a better 
quality than another. These two views, we have seen, are 
contradictory to one another. We must choose between them : 
and if we choose the latter, then we must give up the principle 
of Hedonism. 

49. But, as I said, Professor Sidgwick has seen that they 
are inconsistent. He has seen that he must choose between 
them. He has chosen. He has rejected the test by quality of 
pleasure, and has accepted the hedonistic principle. He still 
maintains that 'Pleasure alone is good as an end.' I propose 
therefore to discuss the considerations which he has offered in 
order to convince us. I shall hope by that discussion to remove 
some more of such prejudices and misunderstandings as might 
prevent agreement with me. If I can shew that some of the 
considerations which Professor Sidgwick urges are such as we 
need by no means agree with, and that others are actually rather 
in my favour than in his, we may have again advanced a few 
steps nearer to the unanimity which we desire. 

50. The passages in the Methods of Ethics to which I shall 
now invite attention are to be found in I. ix. 4 and in III. 
Xiv. 4 5. 

The first of these two passages runs as follows : 

"I think that if we consider carefully such permanent results 
as are commonly judged to be good, other than qualities of human 
beings, we can find nothing that, on reflection, appears to possess 
this quality of goodness out of relation to human existence, or 
at least to some consciousness or feeling. 

"For example, we commonly judge some inanimate objects, 
scenes, etc. to be good as possessing beauty, and others bad 
from ugliness: still no one would consider it rational to aim at 
the production of beauty in external nature, apart from any 

M. 6 


possible contemplation of it by human beings. In fact when 
beauty is maintained to be objective, it is not commonly meant 
that it exists as beauty out of relation to any mind whatsoever: 
but only that there is some standard of beauty valid for all minds. 

"It may, however, be said that beauty and other results 
commonly judged to be good, though we do not conceive them 
to exist out of relation to human beings (or at least minds of 
some kind), are yet so far separable as ends from the human 
beings on whom their existence depends, that their realization 
may conceivably come into competition with the perfection 
or happiness of these beings. Thus, though beautiful things 
cannot be thought worth producing except as possible objects 
of contemplation, still a man may devote himself to their 
production without any consideration of the persons who are 
to contemplate them. Similarly knowledge is a good which 
cannot exist except in minds; and yet one may be more 
interested in the development of knowledge than in its possession 
by any particular minds; and may take the former as an 
ultimate end without regarding the latter. 

"Still, as soon as the alternatives are clearly apprehended, 
it will, I think, be generally held that beauty, knowledge, and 
other ideal goods, as well as all external material things, are 
only reasonably to be sought by men in so far as they conduce 
(1) to Happiness or (2) to the Perfection or Excellence of 
human existence. I say 'human,' for though most utilitarians 
consider the pleasure (and freedom from pain) of the inferior 
animals to be included in the Happiness which they take as the 
right and proper end of conduct, no one seems to contend that 
we ought to aim at perfecting brutes except as a means to our 
ends, or at least as objects of scientific or aesthetic contemplation 
for us. Nor, again, can we include, as a practical end, the 
existence of beings above the human. We certainly apply the 
idea of Good to the Divine Existence, just as we do to His 
work, and indeed in a preeminent manner : and when it is said 
that, 'we should do all things to the glory of God/ it may seem 
to be implied that the existence of God is made better by our 
glorifying Him. Still this inference when explicitly drawn 
appears somewhat impious; and theologians generally recoil from 


it, and refrain from using the notion of a possible addition to 
the Goodness of the Divine Existence as a ground of human 
duty. Nor can the influence of our actions on other extra- 
human intelligences besides the Divine be at present made 
matter of scientific discussion. 

"I shall therefore confidently lay down, that if there be any 
Good other than Happiness to be sought by man, as an ultimate 
practical end, it can only be the Goodness, Perfection, or 
Excellence of Human Existence. How far this notion includes 
more than Virtue, what its precise relation to Pleasure is, and 
to what method we shall be logically led if we accept it as 
fundamental, are questions which we -shall more conveniently 
discuss after the detailed examination of these two other 
notions, Pleasure and Virtue, in which we shall be engaged in 
the two following Books." 

It will be observed that in this passage Prof. Sidgwick tries 
to limit the range of objects among which the ultimate end 
may be found. He does not yet say what that end is, but 
he does exclude from it everything but certain characters of 
Human Existence. And the possible ends, which he thus 
excludes, do not again come up for consideration. They are 
put out of court once for all by this passage and by this passage 
only. Now is this exclusion justified? 

I cannot think it is. 'No one,' says Prof. Sidgwick, 'would 
consider it rational to aim at the production of beauty in 
external nature, apart from any possible contemplation of it by 
human beings.' Well, I may say at once, that I, for one, do 
consider this rational ; and let us see if I cannot get any one 
to agree with me. Consider what this admission really means. 
It entitles us to put the following case. Let us imagine one 
world exceedingly beautiful. Imagine it as beautiful as you 
can; put into it whatever on this earth you most admire 
mountains, rivers, the sea ; trees, and sunsets, stars and moon. 
Imagine these all combined in the most exquisite proportions, 
so that no one thing jars against another, but each contributes 
to increase the beauty of the whole. And then imagine the 
ugliest world you can possibly conceive. Imagine it simply 
one heap of filth, containing everything that is most disgusting 



to us, for whatever reason, and the whole, as far as may be, 
without one redeeming feature. Such a pair of worlds we are 
entitled to compare: they fall within Prof. Sidgwick's meaning, 
and the comparison is highly relevant to it. The only thing 
we are not entitled to imagine is that any human being ever 
has or ever, by any possibility, can, live in either, can ever see 
and enjoy the beauty of the one or hate the foulness of the 
other. Well, even so, supposing them quite apart from any 
possible contemplation by human beings; still, is it irrational 
to hold that it is better that the beautiful world should exist, 
than the one which is ugly? Would it not be well, in any case, 
to do what we could to produce it rather than the other? 
Certainly I cannot help thinking that it would ; and I hope 
that some may agree with me in this extreme instance. The 
instance is extreme. It is highly improbable, not to say, im- 
possible, we should ever have such a choice before us. In 
any actual choice we should have to consider the possible 
effects of our action upon conscious beings, and among these 
possible effects there are always some, I think, which ought to 
be preferred to the existence of mere beauty. But this only 
means that in our present state, in which but a very small 
portion of the good is attainable, the pursuit of beauty for its 
own sake must always be postponed to the pursuit of some 
greater good, which is equally attainable. But it is enough 
for my purpose, if it be admitted that, supposing no greater 
good were at all attainable, then beauty must in itself be 
regarded as a greater good than ugliness; if it be admitted 
that, in that case, we should not be left without any reason 
for preferring one course of action to another, we should not 
be left without any duty whatever, but that it would then be 
our positive duty to make the world more beautiful, so far as 
we were able, since nothing better than beauty could then result 
from our efforts. If this be once admitted, if in any imaginable 
case you do admit that the existence of a more beautiful thing 
is better in itself than that of one more ugly, quite apart from 
its effects on any human feeling, then Prof. Sidgwick's principle 
has broken down. Then we shall have to include in our ultimate 
end something beyond the limits of human existence. I admit. 


of course, that our beautiful world would be better still, if there 
were human beings in it to contemplate and enjoy its beauty. 
But that admission makes nothing against my point. If it be 
once admitted that the beautiful world in itself is better than 
the ugly, then it follows, that however many beings may enjoy 
it, and however much better their enjoyment may be than it is 
itself, yet its mere existence adds something to the goodness of 
the whole: it is not only a means, to our end, but also itself 
a part thereof. 

51. In the second passage to which I referred above, 
Prof. Sidgwick returns from the discussion of Virtue and 
Pleasure, with which he has mean-while been engaged, to 
consider what among the parts of Human Existence to which, 
as we saw, he has limited the ultimate end, can really be 
considered as such end. What I have just said, of course, 
appears to me to destroy the force of this part of his argument 
too. If, as I think, other things than any part of Human 
Existence can be ends-in-thernselves, then Prof. Sidgwick 
cannot claim to have discovered the Suramum Bonum, when 
he has merely determined what parts of Human Existence are 
in themselves desirable. But this error may be admitted to 
be utterly insignificant in comparison with that which we are 
now about to discuss. 

"It may be said," says Prof. Sidgwick (III. xiv. 45), "that 
we may... regard cognition of Truth, contemplation of Beauty, 
Free or Virtuous action, as in some measure preferable alterna- 
tives to Pleasure or Happiness even though we admit that 
Happiness must be included as a part of Ultimate Good.... I 
think, however, that this view ought not to commend itself to 
the sober judgment of reflective persons. In order to shew this, 
I must ask the reader to use the same twofold procedure that 
I before requested him to employ in considering the absolute 
and independent validity of common moral precepts. I appeal 
firstly to his intuitive judgment after due consideration of the 
question when fairly placed before it: and secondly to a com- 
prehensive comparison of the ordinary judgments of mankind. 
As regards the first argument, to me at least it seems clear 
after reflection that these objective relations of the conscious 


subject, when distinguished from the consciousness accompany- 
ing and resulting from them, are not ultimately and intrinsically 
desirable; any more than material or other objects are, when 
considered apart from any relation to conscious existence. Ad- 
mitting that we have actual experience of such preferences 
as have just been described, of which the ultimate object is 
something that is not merely consciousness: it still seems to 
me that when (to use Butler's phrase) we ' sit down in a cool 
hour,' we can only justify to ourselves the importance that we 
attach to any of these objects by considering its conduciveness, 
in one way or another, to the happiness of sentient beings. 

"The second argument, that refers to the common sense of 
mankind, obviously cannot be made completely cogent; since, 
as above stated, several cultivated persons do habitually judge 
that knowledge, art, etc., not to speak of Virtue are ends 
independently of the pleasure derived from them. But we may 
urge not only that all these elements of 'ideal good' are 
productive of pleasure in various ways ; but also that they seem 
to obtain the commendation of Common Sense, roughly speaking, 
in proportion to the degree of this productiveness. This seems 
obviously true of Beauty ; and will hardly be denied in respect 
of any kind of social ideal : it is paradoxical to maintain that 
any degree of Freedom, or any form of social order, would still 
be commonly regarded as desirable even if we were certain that 
it had no tendency to promote the general happiness. The 
case of Knowledge is rather more complex; but certainly 
Common Sense is most impressed with the value of knowledge, 
when its ' fruitfulness ' has been demonstrated. It is, however, 
aware that experience has frequently shewn how knowledge, 
long fruitless, may become unexpectedly fruitful, and how light 
may be shed on one part of the field of knowledge from another 
apparently remote: and even if any particular branch of scientific 
pursuit could be shewn to be devoid of even this indirect utility, 
it would still deserve some respect on utilitarian grounds; both 
as furnishing to the inquirer the refined and innocent pleasures 
of curiosity, and because the intellectual disposition which it 
exhibits and sustains is likely on the whole to produce fruitful 
knowledge. Still in cases approximating to this last, Common 


Sense is somewhat disposed to complain of the mis-direction of 
valuable effort ; so that the meed of honour commonly paid to 
Science seems to be graduated, though perhaps unconsciously, 
by a tolerably exact utilitarian scale. Certainly the moment 
the legitimacy of any branch of scientific inquiry is seriously 
disputed, as in the recent case of vivisection, the controversy 
on both sides is generally conducted on an avowedly utilitarian 

"The case of Virtue requires special consideration: since 
the encouragement in each other of virtuous impulses and 
dispositions is a main aim of men's ordinary moral discourse; 
so that even to raise the question whether this encouragement 
can go too far has a paradoxical air. Still, our experience 
includes rare and exceptional cases in which the concentration 
of effort on the cultivation of virtue has seemed to have effects 
adverse to general happiness, through being intensified to the 
point of moral fanaticism, and so involving a neglect of other 
conditions of happiness. If, then, we admit as actual or possible 
such 'infelicific' effects of the cultivation of Virtue, I think we 
shall also generally admit that, in the case supposed, conducive- 
ness to general happiness should be the criterion for deciding 
how far the cultivation of Virtue should be carried." 

There we have Prof. Sidgwick's argument completed. We 
ought not, he thinks, to aim at knowing the Truth, or at 
contemplating Beauty, except in so far as such knowledge or 
such contemplation contributes to increase the pleasure or to 
diminish the pain of sentient beings. Pleasure alone is good 
for its own sake: knowledge of the Truth is good only as a 
means to pleasure. 

52. Let us consider what this means. What is pleasure? 
It is certainly something of which we may be conscious, and 
which, therefore, may be distinguished from our consciousness 
of it. What I wish first to ask is this: Can it really be said 
that we value pleasure, except in so far as we are conscious of 
it? Should we think that the attainment of pleasure, of which 
we never were and never could be conscious, was something 
to be aimed at for its own sake? It may be impossible that 
such pleasure should ever exist, that it should ever be thus 


divorced from consciousness; although there is certainly much 
reason to believe that it is not only possible but very common. 
But, even supposing that it were impossible, that is quite 
irrelevant. Our question is: Is it the pleasure, as distinct from 
the consciousness of it, that we set value on ? Do we think the 
pleasure valuable in itself, or must we insist that, if we are to 
think the pleasure good, we must have consciousness of it too? 

This consideration is very well put by Socrates in Plato's 
dialogue Philebus (21 A). 

'Would you accept, Protarchus/ says Socrates, 'to live your 
whole life in the enjoyment of the greatest pleasures ? ' 'Of 
course I would,' says Protarchus. 

Socrates. Then would you think you needed anything else 
besides, if you possessed this one blessing in completeness ? 

Protarchus. Certainly not. 

Socrates. Consider what you are saying. You would not 
need to be wise and intelligent and reasonable, nor anything 
like this? Would you not even care to keep your sight? 

Protarchus. Why should I? I suppose I should have all 
I want, if I was pleased. 

Socrates. Well, then, supposing you lived so, you would 
enjoy always throughout your life the greatest pleasure ? 

Protarchus. Of course. 

Socrates. But, on the other hand, inasmuch as you would 
not possess intelligence and memory and knowledge and true 
opinion, you would, in the first place, necessarily be without the 
knowledge whether you were pleased or not. For you would 
be devoid of any kind of wisdom. You admit this ? 

Protarchus. I do. The consequence is absolutely necessary. 

Socrates. Well, then, besides this, not having memory, you 
must also be unable to remember even that you ever were 
pleased; of the pleasure which falls upon you at the moment 
not the least vestige must afterwards remain. And again, not 
having true opinion, you cannot think that you are pleased 
when you are; and, being bereft of your reasoning faculties, 
you cannot even have the power to reckon that you will be 
pleased in future. You must live the life of an oyster, or 
of some other of those living creatures, whose home is the seas 


and whose souls are concealed in shelly bodies. Is all this so, or 
can we think otherwise than this ? 

Protarchus. How can we ? 

Socrates. Well, then, can we think such a life desirable ? 

Protarchus. Socrates, your reasoning has left me utterly 

Socrates, we see, persuades Protarchus that Hedonism is 
absurd. If we are really going to maintain that pleasure alone 
is good as an end, we must maintain that it is good, whether we 
are conscious of it or not. We must declare it reasonable to 
take as our ideal (an unattainable ideal it may be) that we 
should be as happy as possible, even on condition that we never 
know and never can know that we are happy. We must be 
willing to sell in exchange for the mere happiness every vestige 
of knowledge, both in ourselves and in others, both of happiness 
itself and of every other thing. Can we really still disagree ? 
Can any one still declare it obvious that this is reasonable ? 
That pleasure alone is good as an end ? 

The case, it is plain, is just like that of the colours 1 , only, 
as yet, not nearly so strong. It is far more possible that we 
should some day be able to produce the intensest pleasure, 
without any consciousness that it is there, than that we should 
be able to produce mere colour, without its being any particular 
colour. Pleasure and consciousness can be far more easily 
distinguished from one another, than colour from the particular 
colours. And yet even if this were not so, we should be bound 
to distinguish them if we really wished to declare pleasure 
alone to be our ultimate end. Even if consciousness were an 
inseparable accompaniment of pleasure, a sine qua non of its 
existence, yet, if pleasure is the only end, we are bound to call 
consciousness a mere means to it, in any intelligible sense that 
can be given to the word means. And if, on the other hand, 
as I hope is now plain, the pleasure would be comparatively 
valueless without the consciousness, then we are bound to say 
that pleasure is not the only end, that some consciousness 
at least must be included with it as a veritable part of the 

1 48 sup. 


For our question now is solely what the end is : it is quite 
another question how far that end may be attainable by itself, 
or must involve the simultaneous attainment of other things. 
It may well be that the practical conclusions at which Utili- 
tarians do arrive, and even those at which they ought logically 
to arrive, are not far from the truth. But in so far as their 
reason for holding these conclusions to be true is that ' Pleasure 
alone is good as an end,' they are absolutely wrong : and it is 
with reasons that we are chiefly concerned in any scientific Ethics. 

53. It seems, then, clear that Hedonism is in error, so far 
as it maintains that pleasure alone, and not the consciousness 
of pleasure, is the sole good. And this error seems largely due 
to the fallacy which I pointed out above in Mill the fallacy 
of confusing means and end. It is falsely supposed that, since 
pleasure must always be accompanied by consciousness (which 
is, itself, extremely doubtful), therefore it is indifferent whether 
we say that pleasure or the consciousness of pleasure is the sole 
good. Practically, of course, it would be indifferent at which 
we aimed, if it were certain that we could not get the one with- 
out the other; but where the question is of what is good in 
itself where we ask : For the sake of what is it desirable to 
get that which we aim at ? the distinction is by no means 
unimportant. Here we are placed before an exclusive alter- 
native. Either pleasure by itself (even though we can't get it) 
would be all that is desirable, or a consciousness of it would be 
more desirable still. Both these propositions cannot be true ; 
and I think it is plain that the latter is true ; whence it follows 
that pleasure is not the sole good. 

Still it may be said that, -even if consciousness of pleasure, 
and not pleasure alone, is the sole good, this conclusion is not 
very damaging to Hedonism. It may be said that Hedonists 
have always meant by pleasure the consciousness of pleasure, 
though they have not been at pains to say so ; and this, I think 
is, in the main, true. To correct their formula in this respect 
could, therefore, only be a matter of practical importance, if 
it is possible to produce pleasure without producing conscious- 
ness of it. But even this importance, which I think our 
conclusion so far really has, is, I admit, comparatively slight. 


What I wish to maintain is that even consciousness of pleasure 
is not the sole good : that, indeed, it is absurd so to regard it. 
And the chief importance of what has been said so far lies in 
the fact that the same method, which shews that consciousness 
of pleasure is more valuable than pleasure, seems also to shew 
that consciousness of pleasure is itself far less valuable than 
other things. The supposition that consciousness of pleasure is 
the sole good is due to a neglect of the same distinctions which 
have encouraged the careless assertion that pleasure is the sole 

The method which I employed in order to shew that plea- 
sure itself was not the sole good, was that of considering what 
value we should attach to it, if it existed in absolute isolation, 
stripped of all its usual accompaniments. And this is, in fact, 
the only method that can be safely used, when we wish to 
discover what degree of value a thing has in itself. The 
necessity of employing this method will be best exhibited by 
a discussion of the arguments used by Prof. Sidgwick in the 
passage last quoted, and by an exposure of the manner in which 
they are calculated to mislead. 

54. With regard to the second of them, it only maintains 
that other things, which might be supposed to share with 
pleasure the attribute of goodness, 'seem to obtain the com- 
mendation of Common Sense, roughly speaking, in proportion 
to the degree' of their productiveness of pleasure. Whether 
even this rough proportion holds between the commendation 
of Common Sense and the felicific effects of that which it 
commends is a question extremely difficult to determine ; and 
we need not enter into it here. For, even assuming it to be 
true, and assuming the judgments of Common Sense to be on 
the whole correct, what would it shew? It would shew, certainly, 
that pleasure was a good criterion of right action that the 
same conduct which produced most pleasure would also produce 
most good on the whole. But this would by no means entitle 
us to the conclusion that the greatest pleasure constituted what 
was best on the whole : it would still leave open the alternative 
that the greatest quantity of pleasure was as a matter of fact, 
under actual conditions, generally accompanied by the greatest 


quantity of other goods, and that it therefore was not the sole 
good. It might indeed seem to be a strange coincidence that 
these two things should always, even in this world, be in pro- 
portion to one another. But the strangeness of this coincidence 
will certainly not entitle us to argue directly that it does not 
exist that it is an illusion, due to the fact that pleasure is 
really the sole good. The coincidence may be susceptible of 
other explanations ; and it would even be our duty to accept it 
unexplained, if direct intuition seemed to declare that pleasure 
was not the sole good. Moreover it must be remembered that 
the need for assuming such a coincidence rests in any case upon 
the extremely doubtful proposition that felicific effects are 
roughly in proportion to the approval of Common Sense. And 
it should be observed that, though Prof. Sidgwick maintains 
this to be the case, his detailed illustrations only tend to shew 
the very different proposition that a thing is not held to be 
good, unless it gives a balance of pleasure ; not that the degree 
of commendation is in proportion to the quantity of pleasure. 

55. The decision, then, must rest upon Prof. Sidgwick's 
first argument 'the appeal' to our 'intuitive judgment after 
due consideration of the question when fairly placed before it.' 
And here it seems to me plain that Prof. Sidgwick has failed, 
in two essential respects, to place the question fairly before 
either himself or his reader. 

(1) What he has to shew is, as he says himself, not merely 
that ' Happiness must be included as a part of Ultimate Good.' 
This view, he says, ' ought not to commend itself to the sober 
judgment of reflective persons.' And why ? Because ' these 
objective relations, when distinguished from the consciousness 
accompanying and resulting from them, are not ultimately and 
intrinsically desirable.' Now, this reason, which is offered as 
shewing that to consider Happiness as a mere part of Ultimate 
Good does not meet the facts of intuition, is, on the contrary, 
only sufficient to shew that it is a part of Ultimate Good. For 
from the fact that no value resides in one part of a whole, 
considered by itself, we cannot infer that all the value belonging 
to the whole does reside in the other part, considered by itself. 
Even if we admit that there is much value in the enjoyment of 


Beauty, and none in the mere contemplation of it, which is 
one of the constituents of that complex fact, it does not follow 
that all the value belongs to the other constituent, namely, 
the pleasure which we take in contemplating it. It is quite 
possible that this constituent also has no value in itself; that 
the value belongs to the whole state, and to that only : so that 
both the pleasure and the contemplation are mere parts of the 
good, and both of them equally necessary parts. In short, 
Prof. Sidgwick's argument here depends upon the neglect of 
that principle, which I tried to explain in my first chapter and 
which I said I should call the principle of ' organic relations 1 .' 
The argument is calculated to mislead, because it supposes 
that, if we see a whole state to be valuable, and also see that 
one element of that state has no value by itself, then the other 
element, by itself, must have all the value which belongs to the 
whole state. The fact is, on the contrary, that, since the whole 
may be organic, the other element need have no value whatever, 
and that even if it have some, the value of the whole may be 
very much greater. For this reason, as well as to avoid confusion 
between means and end, it is absolutely essential to consider 
each distinguishable quality, in isolation, in order to decide what 
value it possesses. Prof. Sidgwick, on the other hand, applies 
this method of isolation only to one element in the wholes he is 
considering. He does not ask the question : If consciousness 
of pleasure existed absolutely by itself, would a sober judgment 
be able to attribute much value to it ? It is, in fact, always 
misleading to take a whole, that is valuable (or the reverse), and 
then to ask simply : To which of its constituents does this whole 
owe its value or its vileness ? It may well be that it owes it to 
none ; and, if one of them does appear to have some value in 
itself, we shall be led into the grave error of supposing that all 
the value of the whole belongs to it alone. It seems to me that 
this error has commonly been committed with regard to pleasure. 
Pleasure does seem to be a necessary constituent of most valuable 
wholes ; and, since the other constituents, into which we may 
analyse them, may easily seem not to have any value, it is 
natural to suppose that all the value belongs to pleasure. That 

i pp. 2730, 36. 


this natural supposition does not follow from the premises is 
certain; and that it is, on the contrary, ridiculously far from 
the truth appears evident to my 'reflective judgment.' If we 
apply either to pleasure or to consciousness of pleasure the only 
safe method, that of isolation, and ask ourselves : Could we 
accept, as a very good thing, that mere consciousness of pleasure, 
and absolutely nothing else, should exist, even in the greatest 
quantities ? I think we can have no doubt about answering : 
No. Far less can we accept this as the sole good. Even if we 
accept Prof. Sidgwick's implication (which yet appears to me 
extremely doubtful) that consciousness of pleasure has a greater 
value by itself than Contemplation of Beauty, it seems to me 
that a pleasurable Contemplation of Beauty has certainly an 
immeasurably greater value than mere Consciousness of Pleasure. 
In favour of this conclusion I can appeal with confidence to the 
' sober judgment of reflective persons.' 

56. (2) That the value of a pleasurable whole does not 
belong solely to the pleasure which it contains, may, I think, 
be made still plainer by consideration of another point in which 
Prof. Sidgwick's argument is defective. Prof. Sidgwick main- 
tains, as we saw, the doubtful proposition, that the conduciveness 
to pleasure of a thing is in rough proportion to its commenda- 
tion by Common Sense. But he does not maintain, what would 
be undoubtedly false, that the pleasantness of every state is in 
proportion to the commendation of that state. In other words, 
it is only when you take into account the whole consequences of 
any state, that he is able to maintain the coincidence of quantity 
of pleasure with the objects approved by Common Sense. If 
we consider each state by itself, and ask what is the judgment 
of Common Sense as to its goodness as an end, quite apart from 
its goodness as a means, there can be no doubt that Common 
Sense holds many much less pleasant states to be better than 
many far more pleasant : that it holds, with Mill, that there are 
higher pleasures, which are more valuable, though less pleasant, 
than those which are lower. Prof. Sidgwick might, of course, 
maintain that in this Common Sense is merely confusing means 
and ends : that what it holds to be better as an end, is in 
reality only better as a means. But I think his argument is 


defective in that he does not seem to see sufficiently plainly 
that, as far as intuitions of goodness as an end are concerned, 
he is running grossly counter to Common Sense ; that he does 
not emphasise sufficiently the distinction between immediate 
pleasantness and conduciveness to pleasure. In order to place 
fairly before us the question what is good as an end we must 
take states that are immediately pleasant and ask if the more 
pleasant are always also the better ; and whether, if some that 
are less pleasant appear to be so, it is only because we think 
they are likely to increase the number of the more pleasant. 
That Common Sense would deny both these suppositions, and 
rightly so, appears to me indubitable. It is commonly held 
that certain of what would be called the lowest forms of sexual 
enjoyment, for instance, are positively bad, although it is by 
no means clear that they are not the most pleasant states we 
ever experience. Common Sense would certainly not think it 
a sufficient justification for the pursuit of what Prof. Sidgwick 
calls the ' refined pleasures ' here and now, that they are the 
best means to the future attainment of a heaven, in which there 
would be no more refined pleasures no contemplation of beauty, 
no personal affections but in which the greatest possible 
pleasure would be obtained by a perpetual indulgence in 
bestiality. Yet Prof. Sidgwick would be bound to hold that, 
if the greatest possible pleasure could be obtained in this way, 
and if it were attainable, such a state of things would be a 
heaven indeed, and that all human endeavours should be devoted 
to its realisation. I venture to think that this view is as false 
as it is paradoxical. 

*[ 57. It seems to me, then, that if we place fairly before us 
the question : Is consciousness of pleasure the sole good ? the 
answer must be: No. And with this the last defence of 
Hedonism has been broken down. In order to put the question 
fairly we must isolate consciousness of pleasure. We must ask : 
Suppose we were conscious of pleasure only, and of nothing else, 
not even that we were conscious, would that state of things, 
however great the quantity, be very desirable? No one, I think, 
can suppose it so. On the other hand, it seems quite plain, 
that we do regard as very desirable, many complicated states 


of mind in which the consciousness of pleasure is combined with 
consciousness of other things states which we call ' enjoyment 
of so and so. If this is correct, then it follows that conscious- 
ness of pleasure is not the sole good, and that many other states, 
in which it is included as a part, are much better than it. 
Once we recognise the principle of organic unities, any objec- 
tion to this conclusion, founded on the supposed fact that the 
other elements of such states have no value in themselves, must 
disappear. And I do not know that I need say any more in 
refutation of Hedonism. 

58. It only remains to say something of the two forms in 
which a hedonistic doctrine is commonly held Egoism and 

Egoism, as a form of Hedonism, is the doctrine which holds 
that we ought each of us to pursue our own greatest happiness 
as our ultimate end. The doctrine will, of course, admit that 
sometimes the best means to this end will be to give pleasure 
to others ; we shall, for instance, by so doing, procure for our- 
selves the pleasures of sympathy, of freedom from interference, 
and of self-esteem ; and these pleasures, which we may procure 
by sometimes aiming directly at the happiness of other persons, 
may be greater than any we could otherwise get. Egoism in 
this sense must therefore be carefully distinguished from Egoism 
in another sense, the sense in which Altruism is its proper 
opposite. Egoism, as commonly opposed to Altruism, is apt to 
denote merely selfishness. In this sense, a man is an egoist, if 
all his actions are actually directed towards gaining pleasure 
for himself; whether he holds that he ought to act so, because 
he will thereby obtain for himself the greatest possible happi- 
ness on the whole, or not. Egoism may accordingly be used to 
denote the theory that we should always aim at getting pleasure 
for ourselves, because that is the best means to the ultimate end, 
whether the ultimate end be our own greatest pleasure or not. 
Altruism, on the other hand, may denote the theory that we ought 
always to aim at other people's happiness, on the ground that 
this is the best means of securing our own as well as theirs. 
Accordingly an Egoist, in the sense in which I am now going 
to talk of Egoism, an Egoist, who holds that his own greatest 


happiness is the ultimate end, may at the same time be an 
Altruist : he may hold that he ought to ' love his neighbour/ as 
the best means to being happy himself. And conversely an 
Egoist, in the other sense, may at the same time be a Utili- 
tarian. He may hold that he ought always to direct his efforts 
towards getting pleasure for himself on the ground that he is 
thereby most likely to increase the general sum of happiness. 

59. I shall say more later about this second kind of Egoism, 
this anti-altruistic Egoism, this Egoism as a doctrine of means. 
What I am now concerned with is that utterly distinct kind of 
Egoism, which holds that each man ought rationally to hold : 
My own greatest happiness is the only good thing there is ; my 
actions can only be good as means, in so far as they help to win 
me this. This is a doctrine which is not much held by writers 
now-a-days. It is a doctrine that was largely held by English 
Hedonists in the 17th and 18th centuries: it is, for example, 
at the bottom of Hobbes' Ethics. But even the English school 
appear to have made one step forward in the present century : 
they are most of them now-a-days Utilitarians. They do recog- 
nise that if my own happiness is good, it would be strange that 
other people's happiness should not be good too. 

In order fully to expose the absurdity of this kind of Egoism, 
it is necessary to examine certain confusions upon which its 
plausibility depends. 

The chief of these is the confusion involved in the concep- 
tion of ' my own good ' as distinguished from ' the good of others.' 
This is a conception which we all use every day ; it is one of the 
first to which the plain man is apt to appeal in discussing any 
question of Ethics : and Egoism is commonly advocated chiefly 
because its meaning is not clearly perceived. It is plain, in- 
deed, that the name ' Egoism ' more properly applies to the 
| theory that ' my own good ' is the sole good, than that my own 
j pleasure is so. A man may quite well be an Egoist, even if he 
ibe not a Hedonist. The conception which is, perhaps, most 
closely associated with Egoism is that denoted by the words ' my 
own interest.' The Egoist is the man who holds that a tendency 
to promote his own interest is the sole possible, and sufficient, 
justification of all his actions. But this conception of ' my own 

M. 7 


interest ' plainly includes, in general, very much more than my 
own pleasure. It is, indeed, only because and in so far as ' my 
own interest' has been thought to consist solely in my own 
pleasure, that Egoists have been led to hold that my own 
pleasure is the sole good. Their course of reasoning is as follows : 
The only thing I ought to secure is my own interest ; but my 
own interest consists in my greatest possible pleasure ; and 
therefore the only thing I ought to pursue is my own pleasure. 
That it is very natural, on reflection, thus to identify my own 
pleasure with my own interest ; and that it has been generally 
done by modern moralists, may be admitted. But, when Prof. 
Sidgwick points this out (ill. xiv. 5, Div. III.), he should have also 
pointed out that this identification has by no means been made in 
ordinary thought. When the plain man says ' my own interest,' 
he does not mean 'my own pleasure' he does not commonly 
even include this he means my own advancement, my own 
reputation, the getting of a better income etc., etc. That Prof. 
Sidgwick should not have noticed this, and that he should give 
the reason he gives for the fact that the ancient moralists did 
not identify ' my own interest ' with my own pleasure, seems to 
be due to his having failed to notice that very confusion in the 
conception of ' my own good ' which I am now to point out. 
That confusion has, perhaps, been more clearly perceived by 
Plato than by any other moralist, and to point it out suffices to 
refute Prof. Sidgwick's own view that Egoism is rational. 

What, then, is meant by ' my own good ' ? In what sense can 
a thing be good for 'me ? It is obvious, if we reflect, that the 
only thing which can belong to me, which can be mine, is some- 
thing which is good, and not the fact that it is good. When, 
therefore, I talk of anything I get as ' my own good,' I must 
mean either that the thing I get is good, or that my possessing 
it is good. In both cases it is only the thing or the possession 
of it which is mine, and not the goodness of that thing or that 
possession. There is no longer any meaning in attaching the 
' my ' to our predicate, and saying : The possession of this by me 
is my good. Even if we interpret this by ' My possession of this 
is what / think good,' the same still holds : for what I think is 
that my possession of it is good simply ; and, if I think rightly, 


then the truth is that my possession of it is good simply not, 
in any sense, my good ; and, if I think wrongly, it is not good 
at all. In short, when I talk of a thing as ' my own good ' all 
that I can mean is that something which will be exclusively 
mine, as my own pleasure is mine (whatever be the various 
senses of this relation denoted by ' possession '), is also good 
absolutely ; or rather that my possession of it is good absolutely. 
The good of it can in no possible sense be ' private ' or belong to 
me ; any more than a thing can exist privately or for one person 
only. The only reason I can have for aiming at ' my own good,' 
is that it is good absolutely that what I so call should belong to 
me good absolutely that I should have something, which, if I 
have it, others cannot have. But if it is good absolutely that I 
should have it, then everyone else has as much reason for aim- 
ing at my having it, as I have myself. If, therefore, it is true 
of any single man's ' interest ' or ' happiness ' that it ought to be 
his sole ultimate end, this can only mean that that man's ' inter- 
est ' or ' happiness ' is the sole good, the Universal Good, and the 
only thing that anybody ought to aim at. What Egoism holds, 
therefore, is that each man's happiness is the sole good that a 
number of different things are each of them the only good thing 
there is an absolute contradiction ! No more complete and 
thorough refutation of any theory could be desired. 

60. Yet Prof. Sidgwick holds that Egoism is rational ; and 
it will be useful briefly to consider the reasons which he gives 
for this absurd conclusion. ' The Egoist,' he says (last Chap. 1), 
' may avoid the proof of Utilitarianism by declining to affirm,' 
either ' implicitly or explicitly, that his own greatest happiness 
is not merely the ultimate rational end for himself, but a part 
of Universal Good.' And in the passage to which he here 
refers us, as having there ' seen ' this, he says : ' It cannot 
be proved that the difference between his own happiness and 
another's happiness is not for him all-important' (iv. ii. 1). 
What does Prof. Sidgwick mean by these phrases ' the ultimate 
rational end for himself/ and 'for him all- important ' ? He does 
not attempt to define them ; and it is largely the use of such 
undefined phrases which causes absurdities to be committed 
in philosophy. 



Is there any sense in which a thing can be an ultimate 
rational end for one person and not for another ? By ' ultimate ' 
must be meant at least that the end is good-in-itself good 
in our undefinable sense ; and by ' rational/ at least, that it is 
truly good. That a thing should be an ultimate rational 
end means, then, that it is truly good in itself; and that it 
is truly good in itself means that it is a part of Universal 
Good. Can we assign any meaning to that qualification ' for 
himself,' which will make it cease to be a part of Universal 
Good ? The thing is impossible : for the Egoist's happiness 
must either be good in itself, and so a part of Universal Good, 
or else it cannot be good in itself at all : there is no escaping 
this dilemma. And if it is not good at all, what reason can he 
have for aiming at it ? how can it be a rational end for him ? 
That qualification ' for himself has no meaning unless it implies 
4 not for others ' ; and if it implies ' not for others/ then it cannot 
be a rational end for him, since it cannot be truly good in 
itself: the phrase 'an ultimate rational end for himself is a 
contradiction in terms. By saying that a thing is an end 
for one particular person, or good for him, can only be meant 
one of four things. Either (1) it may be meant that the 
end in question is something which will belong exclusively to 
him ; but in that case, if it is to be rational for him to aim at it, 
that he should exclusively possess it must be a part of Universal 
Good. Or (2) it may be meant that it is the only thing at 
which he ought to aim ; but this can only be, because, by so 
doing, he will do the most he can towards realising Universal 
Good : and this, in our case, will only give Egoism as a doctrine 
of means. Or (3) it may be meant that the thing is what 
he desires or thinks good ; and then, if he thinks wrongly, it is 
not a rational end at all, and, if he thinks rightly, it is a part 
of Universal Good. Or (4) it may be meant that it is peculiarly 
appropriate that a thing which will belong exclusively to him 
should also by him be approved or aimed at ; but, in this case, 
both that it should belong to him and that he should aim at it 
must be parts of Universal Good : by saying that a certain 
relation between two things is fitting or appropriate, we can 
only mean that the existence of that relation is absolutely good 

Ill] HEDONISM 101 

in itself (unless it be so as a means, which gives case (2)). By 
no possible meaning, then, that can be given to the phrase that 
his own happiness is the ultimate rational end for himself can 
the Egoist escape the implication that his own happiness is 
absolutely good ; and by saying that it is the ultimate rational 
end, he must mean that it is the only good thing the whole 
of Universal Good : and, if he further maintains, that each 
man's happiness is the ultimate rational end for him, we 
have the fundamental contradiction of Egoism that an im- 
mense number of different things are, each of them, the sole 
good. And it is easy to see that the same considerations apply 
to the phrase that ' the difference between his own happiness 
and another's is for him all-important.' This can only mean 
either (1) that his own happiness is the only end which will 
affect him, or (2) that the only important thing for him 
(as a means) is to look to his own happiness, or (3) that it 
is only his own happiness which he cares about, or (4) that it is 
good that each man's happiness should be the only concern 
of that man. And none of these propositions, true as they may 
be, have the smallest tendency to shew that if his own happiness 
is desirable at all, it is not a part of Universal Good. Either 
his own happiness is a good thing or it is not; and, in whatever 
sense it may be all-important for him, it must be true that, 
if it is not good, he is not justified in pursuing it, and that, 
if it is good, everyone else has an equal reason to pursue it, 
so far as they are able and so far as it does not exclude their 
attainment of other more valuable parts of Universal Good. 
In short it is plain that the addition of ' for him ' ' for me ' 
to such words as ' ultimate rational end,' ' good/ ' important ' 
can introduce nothing but confusion. The only possible reason 
that can justify any action is that by it the greatest possible 
amount of what is good absolutely should be realised. And 
if anyone says that the attainment of his own happiness 
justifies his actions, he must mean that this is the greatest 
possible amount of Universal Good which he can realise. And 
this again can only be true either because he has no power 
to realise more, in which case he only holds Egoism as a 
doctrine of means ; or else because his own happiness is the 


greatest amount of Universal Good which can be realised at all, 
in which case we have Egoism proper, and the flagrant contra- 
diction that every person's happiness is singly the greatest 
amount of Universal Good which can be realised at all. 

61. It should be observed that, since this is so, 'the relation 
of Rational Egoism to Rational Benevolence,' which Prof. 
Sidgwick regards 'as the profoundest problem of Ethics' 
(ill. xiii. 5, n. I), appears in quite a different light to that in 
which he presents it. 'Even if a man,' he says, 'admits the self- 
evidence of the principle of Rational Benevolence, he may still 
hold that his own happiness is an end which it is irrational for 
him to sacrifice to any other; and that therefore a harmony 
between the maxim of Prudence and the maxim of Rational 
Benevolence must be somehow demonstrated, if morality is to 
be made completely rational. This latter view is that which 
I myself hold' (last Chap. 1). Prof. Sidgwick then goes on to 
shew 'that the inseparable connection between Utilitarian Duty 
and the greatest happiness of the individual who conforms to 
it cannot be satisfactorily demonstrated on empirical grounds ' 
(Ib. 3). And the final paragraph of his book tells us that, 
since ' the reconciliation of duty and self-interest is to be 
regarded as a hypothesis logically necessary to avoid a funda- 
mental contradiction in one chief department of our thought, 
it remains to ask how far this necessity constitutes a sufficient 
reason for accepting this hypothesis 1 ' (Ib. 5). To ' assume 
the existence of such a Being, as God, by the consensus of 
theologians, is conceived to be ' would, he has already argued, 
ensure the required reconciliation ; since the Divine Sanctions 
of such a God 'would, of course, suffice to make it always 
every one's interest to promote universal happiness to the best 
of his knowledge' (Ib. 5). 

Now what is this ' reconciliation of duty and self-interest,' 
which Divine Sanctions could ensure ? It would consist in the 
mere fact that the same conduct which produced the greatest 
possible happiness of the greatest number would always also 
produce the greatest possible happiness of the agent. If this 
were the case (and our empirical knowledge shews that it is not 
1 The italics are mine. 

Ill] HEDONISM 103 

the case in this world), ' morality ' would, Prof. Sidgwick thinks, 
be 'completely rational': we should avoid 'an ultimate and 
fundamental contradiction in our apparent intuitions of what 
is Reasonable in conduct.' That is to say, we should avoid the 
necessity of thinking that it is as manifest an obligation to 
secure our own greatest Happiness (maxim of Prudence), as to 
secure the greatest Happiness on the whole (maxim of Benevo- 
lence). But it is perfectly obvious we should not. Prof. 
Sidgwick here commits the characteristic fallacy of Empiricism 
the fallacy of thinking that an alteration in facts could make 
a contradiction cease to be a contradiction. That a single man's 
happiness should be the sole good, and that also everybody's 
happiness should be the sole good, is a contradiction which 
cannot be solved by the assumption that the same conduct will 
secure both : it would be equally C9ntradictory, however certain 
we were that that assumption was justified. Prof. Sidgwick 
strains at a gnat and swallows a camel. He thinks the Divine 
Omnipotence must be called into play to secure that what gives 
other people pleasure should also give it to him that only 
so can Ethics be made rational ; while he overlooks the fact 
that even this exercise of Divine Omnipotence would leave in 
Ethics a contradiction, in comparison with which his difficulty 
is a trifle a contradiction, which would reduce all Ethics to 
mere nonsense, and before which the Divine Omnipotence must 
be powerless to all eternity. That each man's happiness should 
be the sole good, which we have seen to be the principle of 
Egoism, is in itself a contradiction : and that it should also 
be true that the Happiness of all is the sole good, which is the 
principle of Universal is tic Hedonism, would introduce another 
contradiction. And that these propositions should all be true 
might well be called 'the profoundest problem in Ethics': 
it would be a problem necessarily insoluble. But they cannot 
all be true, and there is no reason, but confusion, for the 
supposition that they are. Prof. Sidgwick confuses this con- 
tradiction with the mere fact (in which there is no contradiction) 
that our own greatest happiness and that of all do not seem 
always attainable by the same means. This fact, if Happiness 
were the sole good, would indeed be of some importance ; and, 


on any view, similar facts are of importance. But they are 
nothing but instances of the one important fact that in this 
world the quantity of good which is attainable is ridiculously 
small compared to that which is imaginable. That I cannot 
get the most possible pleasure for myself, if I produce the 
most possible pleasure on the whole, is no more the profoundest 
problem of Ethics, than that in any case I cannot get as much 
pleasure altogether as would be desirable. It only states that, 
if we get as much good as possible in one place, we may get 
less on the whole, because the quantity of attainable good is 
limited. To say that I have to choose between my own good 
and that of all is a false antithesis : the only rational question 
is how to choose between my own and that of others, and 
the principle on which this must be answered is exactly 
the same as that on which I must choose whether to give 
pleasure to this other person or to that. 

62. It is plain, then, that the doctrine of Egoism is self- 
contradictory ; and that one reason why this is not perceived, 
is a confusion with regard to the meaning of the phrase 'my 
own good.' And it may be observed that this confusion and 
the neglect of this contradiction are necessarily involved in the 
transition from Naturalistic Hedonism, as ordinarily held, to 
Utilitarianism. Mill, for instance, as we saw, declares : ' Each 
person, so far as he believes it to be attainable, desires his own 
happiness' (p. 53). And he offers this as a reason why the 
general happiness is desirable. We have seen that to regard 
it as such, involves, in the first place, the naturalistic fallacy. 
But moreover, even if that fallacy were not a fallacy, it could 
only be a reason for Egoism and not for Utilitarianism. Mill's 
argument is as follows : A man desires his own happiness ; 
therefore his own happiness is desirable. Further : A man 
desires nothing but his own happiness; therefore his own 
happiness is alone desirable. We have next to remember, 
that everybody, according to Mill, so desires his own happiness: 
and then it will follow that everybody's happiness is alone 
desirable. And this is simply a contradiction in terms. Just 
consider what it means. Each man's happiness is the only 
thing desirable: several different things are each of them the 


only thing desirable. This is the fundamental contradiction of 
Egoism. In order to think that what his arguments tend to 
prove is not Egoism but Utilitarianism, Mill must think that 
he can infer from the proposition ' Each man's happiness is his 
own good,' the proposition ' The happiness of all is the good of 
all ' ; whereas in fact, if we understand what ' his own good ' 
means, it is plain that the latter can only be inferred from 'The 
happiness of all is the good of each.' Naturalistic Hedonism, 
then, logically leads only to Egoism. Of course, a Naturalist 
might hold that what we aimed at was simply ' pleasure ' not 
our own pleasure ; and that, always assuming the naturalistic 
fallacy, would give an unobjectionable ground for Utilitarianism. 
But more commonly he will hold that it is his own pleasure he 
desires, or at least will confuse this with the other ; and then 
he must logically be led to adopt Egoism and not Utilitarian- 

63. The second cause I have to give why Egoism should be 
thought reasonable, is simply its confusion with that other kind 
of Egoism Egoism as a doctrine of means. This second Egoism 
has a right to say : You ought to pursue your own happiness, 
sometimes at all events ; it may even say : Always. And when 
we find it saying this we are apt to forget its proviso : But only 
as a means to something else. The fact is we are in an imperfect 
state ; we cannot get the ideal all at once. And hence it is 
often our bounden duty, we often absolutely 'ought,' to do things 
which are good only or chiefly as means : we have to do the 
best we can, what is absolutely ' right,' but not what is abso- 
lutely good. Of this I shall say more hereafter. I only mention 
it here because I think it is much more plausible to say that 
we ought to pursue our own pleasure as a means than as an 
end, and that this doctrine, through confusion, lends some of its 
plausibility to the utterly different doctrine of Egoism proper : 
My own greatest pleasure is the only good thing. 

64. So much for Egoism. Of Utilitarianism not much need 
be said ; but two points may seem deserving of notice. 

The first is that this name, like that of Egoism, does not 
naturally suggest that all our actions are to be judged according 
to the degree in which they are a means to pleasure. Its 


natural meaning is that the standard of right and wrong in 
conduct is its tendency to promote the interest of everybody. 
And by interest is commonly meant a variety of different goods, 
classed together only because they are what a man commonly 
desires for himself, so far as his desires have not that psycho- 
logical quality which is meant by ' moral.' The ' useful ' thus 
means, and was in ancient Ethics systematically used to mean, 
what is a means to the attainment of goods other than moral 
goods. It is quite an unjustifiable assumption that these goods 
are only good as means to pleasure or that they are commonly 
so regarded. The chief reason for adopting the name ' Utilita- 
rianism ' was, indeed, merely to emphasize the fact that right 
and wrong conduct must be judged by its results as a means, 
in opposition to the strictly Intuitionistic view that certain 
ways of acting were right and others wrong, whatever their 
results might be. In thus insisting that what is right must 
mean what produces the best possible results Utilitarianism is 
fully justified. But with this correct contention there has been 
historically, and very naturally, associated a double error. 
(1) The best possible results were assumed to consist only in a 
limited class of goods, roughly coinciding with those which were 
popularly distinguished as the results of merely ' useful ' or 
' interested ' actions ; and these again were hastily assumed to 
be good only as means to pleasure. (2) The Utilitarians tend 
to regard everything as a mere means, neglecting the fact that 
some things which are good as means are also good as ends. 
Thus, for instance, assuming pleasure to be a good, there is a 
tendency to value present pleasure only as a means to future 
pleasure, and not, as is strictly necessary if pleasure is good as 
an end, also to weigh it against possible future pleasures. Much 
utilitarian argument involves the logical absurdity that what 
is here and now, never has any value in itself, but is only to be 
judged by its consequences ; which again, of course, when they 
are realised, would have no value in themselves, but would be 
mere means to a still further future, and so on ad infinitum. 

The second point deserving notice with regard to Utilitari- 
anism is that, when the name is used for a form of Hedonism, 
it does not commonly, even in its description of its end, 

Ill] HEDONISM 107 

accurately distinguish between means and end. Its best-known 
formula is that the result by which actions are to be judged is 
'the greatest happiness of the greatest number.' But it is plain 
that, if pleasure is the sole good, provided the quantity be 
equally great, an equally desirable result will have been obtain- 
ed whether it be enjoyed by many or by few, or even if it be 
enjoyed by nobody. It is plain that, if we ought to aim at the 
greatest happiness of the greatest number, this can only, on the 
hedonistic principle, be because the existence of pleasure in a 
great number of persons seems to be the best means available 
for attaining the existence of the greatest quantity of pleasure. 
This may actually be the case ; but it is fair to suspect that 
Utilitarians have been influenced, in their adoption of the 
hedonistic principle, by this failure to distinguish clearly be- 
tween pleasure or consciousness of pleasure and its possession 
by a person. It is far easier to regard the possession of pleasure 
by a number of persons as the sole good, than so to regard the 
mere existence of an equally great quantity of pleasure. If, 
indeed, we were to take the Utilitarian principle strictly, and 
to assume them to mean that the possession of pleasure by 
many persons was good in itself, the principle is not hedonistic: 
it includes as a necessary part of the ultimate end, the existence 
of a number of persons, and this will include very much more 
than mere pleasure. 

Utilitarianism, however, as commonly held, must be under- 
stood to maintain that either mere consciousness of pleasure, or 
consciousness of pleasure together with the minimum adjunct 
which may be meant by the existence of such consciousness in 
at least one person, is the sole good. This is its significance as 
an ethical doctrine ; and as such it has already been refuted in 
my refutation of Hedonism. The most that can be said for it is 
that it does not seriously mislead in its practical conclusions, on 
the ground that, as an empirical fact, the method of acting 
which brings most good on the whole does also bring most 
pleasure. Utilitarians do indeed generally devote most of their 
arguments to shewing that the course of action which will bring 
most pleasure is in general such as common sense would 
approve. We have seen that Prof. Sidgwick appeals to this 


fact as tending to shew that pleasure is the sole good ; and we 
have also seen that it does not tend to shew this. We have 
seen how very flimsy the other arguments advanced for this 
proposition are ; and that, if it be fairly considered by itself, it 
appears to be quite ridiculous. And, moreover, that the actions 
which produce most good on the whole do also produce most 
pleasure is extremely doubtful. The arguments tending to 
shew it are all more or less vitiated by the assumption that 
what appear to be necessary conditions for the attainment of 
most pleasure in the near future, will always continue so to be. 
And, even with this vicious assumption, they only succeed in 
making out a highly problematical case. How, therefore, this 
fact is to be explained, if it be a fact, need not concern us. It 
is sufficient to have shewn that many complex states of mind 
are much more valuable than the pleasure they contain. If 
this be so, no form of Hedonism can be true. And, since the 
practical guidance afforded by pleasure as a criterion is small in 
proportion as the calculation attempts to be accurate, we can 
well afford to await further investigation, before adopting a 
guide, whose utility is very doubtful and whose trustworthiness 
we have grave reason to suspect. 

65. The most important points which I have endeavoured 
to establish in this chapter are as follows. (1) Hedonism must 
be strictly defined as the doctrine that ' Pleasure is the only 
thing which is good in itself : this view seems to owe its 
prevalence mainly to the naturalistic fallacy, and Mill's argu- 
ments may be taken as a type of those which are fallacious 
in this respect ; Sidgwick alone has defended it without com- 
mitting this fallacy, and its final refutation must therefore 
point out the errors in his arguments (36-38). (2) Mill's 
' Utilitarianism ' is criticised : it being shewn (a) that he 
commits the naturalistic fallacy in identifying ' desirable ' with 
'desired'; (6) that pleasure is not the only object of desire. 
The common arguments for Hedonism seem to rest on these 
two errors (39-44). (3) Hedonism is considered as an 'Intu- 
ition,' and it is pointed out (a) that Mill's allowance that some 
pleasures are inferior in quality to others implies both that 
it is an Intuition and that it is a false one (46-48) ; (b) that 

Ill] HEDONISM 109 

Sidgwick fails to distinguish 'pleasure' from 'consciousness of 
pleasure,' and that it is absurd to regard the former, at all 
events, as the sole good (49-52); (c) that it seems equally 
absurd to regard 'consciousness of pleasure' as the sole good,\ 
since, if it were so, a world in which nothing else existed mightjl 
be absolutely perfect: Sidgwick fails to put to himself this 
question, which is the only clear and decisive one (53-57). 
(4) What are commonly considered to be the two main types of 
Hedonism, namely, Egoism and Utilitarianism, are not only 
different from, but strictly contradictory of, one another; since 
the former asserts 'My own greatest pleasure is the sole good,' 
the latter 'The greatest pleasure of. all is the sole good.' 
Egoism seems to owe its plausibility partly to the failure to 
observe this contradiction a failure which is exemplified by 
Sidgwick; partly to a confusion of Egoism as doctrine of end, 
with the same as doctrine of means. If Hedonism is true, 
Egoism cannot be so; still less can it be so, if Hedonism is false. 
The end of Utilitarianism, on the other hand, would, if Hedon- 
ism were true, be, not indeed the best conceivable, but the 
best possible for us to promote; but it is refuted by the 
refutation of Hedonism (58-64). 



66. IN this chapter I propose to deal with a type of ethical 
theory which is exemplified in the ethical views of the Stoics, 
of Spinoza, of Kant, and especially of a number of modern 
writers, whose views in this respect are mainly due to the 
influence of Hegel. These ethical theories have this in common, 
that they use some metaphysical proposition as a ground for 
inferring some fundamental proposition of Ethics. They all 
imply, and many of them expressly hold, that ethical truths 
follow logically from metaphysical truths that Ethics should be 
based on Metaphysics. And the result is that they all describe 
the Supreme Good in metaphysical terms. 

What, then, is to be understood by 'metaphysical'? I use 
the term, as I explained in Chapter II., in opposition to 'natural.' 
I call those philosophers preeminently 'metaphysical' who have 
recognised most clearly that not everything which is is a 'natural 
object.' 'Metaphysicians' have, therefore, the great merit of 
insisting that our knowledge is not confined to the things which 
we can touch and see and feel. They have always been much 
occupied, not only with that other class of natural objects which 
consists in mental facts, but also with the class of objects or 
properties of objects, which certainly do not exist in time, are 
not therefore parts of Nature, and which, in fact, do not exist at 
all. To this class, as I have said, belongs what we mean by the 
adjective 'good.' It is not goodness, but only the things or 
qualities which are good, which can exist in time can have 


duration, and begin and cease to exist can be objects of per- 
ception. But the most prominent members of this class are 
perhaps numbers. It is quite certain that two natural objects 
may exist; but it is equally certain that two itself does not 
exist arid never can. Two and two are four. But that does 
not mean that either two or four exists. Yet it certainly means 
something. Two is somehow, although it does not exist. And 
it is not only simple terms of propositions the objects about 
which we know truths that belong to this class. The truths 
which we know about them form, perhaps, a still more important 
subdivision. No truth does, in fact, exist: but this is peculiarly 
obvious with regard to truths like 'Two and two are four,' in 
which the objects, about which they are truths, do not exist 
either. It is with the recognition of such truths as these 
truths which have been called 'universal' and of their essential 
unlikeness to what we can touch and see and feel, that meta- 
physics proper begins. Such 'universal' truths have always 
played a large part in the reasonings of metaphysicians from 
Plato's time till now ; and that they have directed attention to 
the difference between these truths and what I have called 
'natural objects' is the chief contribution to knowledge which 
distinguishes them from that other class of philosophers 
'empirical' philosophers to which most Englishmen have 

But though, if we are to define 'metaphysics' by the con- 
tribution which it has actually made to knowledge, we should 
have to say that it has emphasized the importance of objects 
which do not exist at all, metaphysicians themselves have not 
recognised this. They have indeed recognised and insisted that 
there are, or may be, objects of knowledge which do not exist in 
time, or at least which we cannot perceive; and in recognising 
the possibility of these, as an object of investigation, they have, 
it may be admitted, done a service to mankind. But they have 
in general supposed that whatever does not exist in time, must 
at least exist elsewhere, if it is to be at all that, whatever does 
not exist in Nature, must exist in some supersensible reality, 
whether timeless or not. Consequently they have held that 
the truths with which they have been occupied, over and above 


the objects of perception, were in some way truths about such 
supersensible reality. If, therefore, we are to define ' meta- 
physics' not by what it has attained, but by what it has 
attempted, we should say that it consists in the attempt to 
obtain knowledge, by processes of reasoning, of what exists but 
is not a part of Nature. Metaphysicians have actually held that 
they could give us such knowledge of non-natural existence. 
They have held that their science consists in giving us such 
knowledge as can be supported by reasons, of that supersensible 
reality of which religion professes to give us a fuller knowledge, 
without any reasons. When, therefore, I spoke above of 'meta- 
physical' propositions, I meant propositions about the existence 
of something supersensible of something which is not an object 
of perception, and which cannot be inferred from what is an 
object of perception by the same rules of inference by which we 
infer the past and future of what we call 'Nature.' And when 
I spoke of ' metaphysical ' terms, I meant terms which refer to 
qualities of such a supersensible reality, which do not belong 
to anything 'natural.' I admit that 'metaphysics' should 
investigate what reasons there may be for belief in such a 
supersensible reality; since I hold that its peculiar province is 
the truth about all objects which are not natural objects. And 
I think that the most prominent characteristic of metaphysics, 
in history, has been its profession to prove the truth about 
non -natural existents. I define 'metaphysical,' therefore, by a 
reference to supersensible reality; although I think that the 
only non-natural objects, about which it has succeeded in ob- 
taining truth, are objects which do not exist at all. 

So much, I hope, will suffice to explain what I mean by the 
term 'metaphysical,' and to shew that it refers to a clear and 
important distinction. It was not necessary for my purpose to 
make the definition exhaustive or to shew that it corresponds 
in essentials with established usage. The distinction between 
'Nature' and a supersensible reality is very familiar and very 
important: and since the metaphysician endeavours to prove 
things with regard to a supersensible reality, and since he deals 
largely in truths which are not mere natural facts, it is plain 
that his arguments, and errors (if any), will be of a more subtle 


kind than those which I have dealt with under the name of 
' Naturalism.' For these two reasons it seemed convenient to 
treat 'Metaphysical Ethics' by themselves. 

67. I have said that those systems of Ethics, which I pro- 
pose to call ' Metaphysical,' are characterised by the fact that 
they describe the Supreme Good in 'metaphysical' terms; and 
this has now been explained as meaning that they describe it 
in terms of something which (they hold) does exist, but does 
not exist in Nature in terms of a supersensible reality. A 
'Metaphysical Ethics' is marked by the fact that it makes the 
assertion : That which would be perfectly good is something 
which exists, but is not natural ; that which has some charac- 
teristic possessed by a supersensible reality. Such an assertion 
was made by the Stoics when they asserted that a life in accord- 
ance with Nature was perfect. For they did not mean by 
' Nature,' what I have so defined, but something supersensible 
which they inferred to exist, and which they held to be per- 
fectly good. Such an assertion, again, is made by Spinoza 
when he tells us that we are mure or less perfect, in proportion 
as we are more or less closely united with Absolute Substance 
by the ' intellectual love ' of God. Such an assertion is made 
by Kant when he tells us that his 'Kingdom of Ends' is the 
ideal. And such, finally, is made by modern writers who tell 
us that the final and perfect end is to realise our true selves a 
self different both from the whole and from any part of that 
which exists here and now in Nature. 

Now it is plain that such ethical principles have a merit, 
not possessed by Naturalism, in recognising that for perfect 
goodness much more is required than any quantity of what 
exists here and now or can be inferred as likely to exist in the 
future. And moreover it is quite possible that their assertions 
should be true, if we only understand them to assert that some- 
thing which is real possesses all the characteristics necessary 
for perfect goodness. But this is not all that they assert. They 
also imply, as I said, that this ethical proposition follows from 
some proposition which is metaphysical : that the question 
' What is real ? ' has some logical bearing upon the question 
: What is good ?' It was for this reason that I described 'Meta- 

M. 8 


physical Ethics' in Chapter II. as based upon the naturalistic 
fallacy. To hold that from any proposition asserting ' Reality 
is of this nature ' we can infer, or obtain confirmation for, any 
proposition asserting 'This is good in itself is to commit the 
naturalistic fallacy. And that a knowledge of what is real 
supplies reasons for holding certain things to be good in them- 
selves is either implied or expressly asserted by all those who 
define the Supreme Good in metaphysical terms. This con- 
tention is part of what is meant by saying that Ethics should 
be ' based ' on Metaphysics. It is meant that some knowledge 
of supersensible reality is necessary as a premise for correct con- 
clusions as to what ought to exist. This view is, for instance, 
plainly expressed in the following statements : ' The truth is 
that the theory of Ethics which seems most satisfactory has a 

metaphysical basis If we rest our view of Ethics on the idea 

of the development of the ideal self or of the rational universe, 
the significance of this cannot be made fully apparent without 
a metaphysical examination of the nature of self; nor can its 
validity be established except by a discussion of the reality of the 
rational universe 1 .' The validity of an ethical conclusion about 
the nature of the ideal, it is here asserted, cannot be established 
except by considering the question whether that ideal is real. 
Such an assertion involves the naturalistic fallacy. It rests 
upon the failure to perceive that any truth which asserts ' This 
is good in itself is quite unique in kind that it cannot be 
reduced to any assertion about reality, and therefore must 
remain unaffected by any conclusions we may reach about the 
nature of reality. This confusion as to the unique nature of 
ethical truths is, I have said, involved in all those ethical 
theories which I have called metaphysical. It is plain that, 
but for some confusion of the sort, no-one would think it worth 
while even to describe the Supreme Good in metaphysical 
terms. If, for instance, we are told that the ideal consists in 
the realisation of the ' true self/ the very words suggest that 
the fact that the self in question is true is supposed to have ' 
some bearing on the fact that it is good. All the ethical truth 

1 Prof. J. S. Mackenzie, A Manual of Ethics, 4th ed., p. 431. The italics 
are mine. 


which can possibly be conveyed by such an assertion would be 
just as well conveyed by saying that the ideal consisted in the 
realisation of a particular kind of self, which might be either 
real or purely imaginary. ' Metaphysical Ethics,' then, involve 
the supposition that Ethics can be based on Metaphysics ; and 
our first concern with them is to make clear that this supposi- 
tion must be false. 

68. In what way can the nature of supersensible reality 
possibly have a bearing upon Ethics ? 

I have distinguished two kinds of ethical questions, which 
are far too commonly confused with one another. Ethics, as 
commonly understood, has to answer bath the question ' What 
ought to be ? ' and the question ' What ought we to do ? ' The 
second of these questions can only be answered by considering 
what effects our actions will have. A complete answer to it 
would give us that department of Ethics which may be called 
the doctrine of means or practical Ethics. And upon this 
department of ethical enquiry it is plain that the nature of 
a supersensible reality may have a bearing. If, for instance, 
Metaphysics could tell us not only that we are immortal, but 
also, in any degree, what effects our actions in this life will have 
upon our condition in a future one, such information would have 
an undoubted bearing upon the question what we ought to do. 
The Christian doctrines of heaven and hell are in this way 
highly relevant to practical Ethics. But it is worthy of notice 
that the most characteristic doctrines of Metaphysics are such 
! as either have no such bearing upon practical Ethics or have 
a purely negative bearing involving the conclusion that there 
is nothing which we ought to do at all. They profess to tell 
us the nature not of a future reality, but of one that is eternal 
and which therefore no actions of ours can have power to alter. 
Such information may indeed have relevance to practical Ethics, 
but it must be of a purely negative kind. For, if it holds, not 
only that such an eternal reality exists, but also, as is commonly 
the case, that nothing else is real that nothing either has 
been, is now, or will be real in time then truly it will follow 
that nothing we can do will ever bring any good to pass. For 
it is certain that our actionscan only affect the future ; and if 



nothing can be real in the future, we can certainly not hope 
ever to make any good thing real. It would follow, then, that 
there can be nothing which we ought to do. We cannot possibly 
do any good ; for neither our efforts, nor any result which they 
may seem to effect, have any real existence. But this con- 
sequence, though it follows strictly from many metaphysical 
doctrines, is rarely drawn. Although a metaphysician may say 
that nothing is real but that which is eternal, he will generally 
allow that there is some reality also in the temporal : and his 
doctrine of an eternal reality need not interfere with practical 
Ethics, if he allows that, however good the eternal reality may 
be, yet some things will also exist in time, and that the 
existence of some will be better than that of others. It is, 
however, worth while to insist upon this point, because it is 
rarely fully realised. 

If it is maintained that there is any validity at all in 
practical Ethics that any proposition which asserts ' We ought 
to do so and so ' can have any truth this contention can only 
be consistent with the Metaphysics of an eternal reality, under 
two conditions. One of these is, (1) that the true eternal reality, 
which is to be our guide, cannot, as is implied by calling it true, 
be the only true reality. For a moral rule, bidding us realise 
a certain end, can only be justified, if it is possible that that end 
should, at least partially, be realised. Unless our efforts can 
effect the real existence of some good, however little, we 
certainly have no reason for making them. And if the eternal 
reality is the sole reality, then nothing good can possibly exist 
in time : we can only be told to try to bring into existence 
something which we know beforehand cannot possibly exist. 
If it is said that what exists in time can only be a manifestation 
of the true reality, it must at least be allowed that that 
manifestation is another true reality a good which we really 
can cause to exist; for the production of something quite 
unreal, even if it were possible, cannot be a reasonable end of 
action. But if the manifestation of that which eternally exists 
is real, then that which eternally exists is not the sole reality. 

And the second condition which follows from such a meta- 
physical principle of Ethics, is (2) that the eternal reality cannot 


be perfect cannot be the sole good. For just as a reasonable 
rule of conduct requires that what we are told to realise should 
be capable of being truly real, so it requires that the realisation 
of this ideal shall be truly good. It is just that which can be 
realised by our efforts the appearance of the eternal in time, 
or whatsoever else is allowed to be attainable which must be 
truly good, if it is to be worth our efforts. That the eternal 
reality is good, will by no means justify us in aiming at its 
manifestation, unless that manifestation itself be also good. 
For the manifestation is different from the reality : its differ- 
ence is allowed, when we are told that it can be made to exist, 
whereas the reality itself exists unalterably. And the existence ' 
of this manifestation is the only thing which we can hope to 
effect : that also is admitted. If, therefore, the moral maxim is 
to be justified, it is the existence of this manifestation, as 
distinguished from the existence of its corresponding reality, 
which must be truly good. The reality may be good too : but 
to justify the statement that we ought to produce anything, it 
must be maintained, that just that thing itself, and not some- 
thing else which may be like it, is truly good. If it is not true 
that the existence of the manifestation will add something to 
the sum of good in the Universe, then we have no reason to aim 
at making it exist ; and if it is true that it will add something 
to the sum of good, then the existence of that which is eternal 
cannot be perfect by itself it cannot include the whole of 
possible goods. 

Metaphysics, then, will have a bearing upon practical 
Ethics upon the question what we ought to do if it can tell 
us anything about the future consequences of our actions beyond 
what can be established by ordinary inductive reasoning. But 
the most characteristic . metaphysical doctrines, those which 
profess to tell us not about the future but about the nature 
of an eternal reality, can either have no bearing upon this 
practical question or else must have a purely destructive 
bearing. For it is plain that what exists eternally cannot be 
affected by our actions; and only what is affected by our actions 
can have a bearing on their value as means. But the nature of 
an eternal reality either admits no inference as to the results of 


our actions, except in so far as it can also give us information 
about the future (and how it can do this is not plain), or else, if, 
as is usual, it is maintained to be the sole reality and the sole 
good, it shews that no results of our actions can have any value 

69. But this bearing upon practical Ethics, such as it is, is 
not what is commonly meant when it is maintained that Ethics 
must be based on Metaphysics. It is not the assertion of this 
relation which I have taken to be characteristic of Metaphysical 
Ethics. What metaphysical writers commonly maintain is not 
merely that Metaphysics can help us to decide what the effects 
of our actions will be, but that it can tell us which among 
possible effects will be good and which will be bad. They 
profess that Metaphysics is a necessary basis for an answer to 
that other and primary ethical question : What ought to be ? 
What is good in itself? That no truth about what is real can 
have any logical bearing upon the answer to this question has 
been proved in Chapter I. To suppose that it has, implies the 
naturalistic fallacy. All that remains for us to do is, therefore, 
to expose the main errors which seem to have lent plausibility 
to this fallacy in its metaphysical form. If we ask : What 
bearing can Metaphysics have upon the question, What is good?- 
the only possible answer is : Obviously and absolutely none. 
We can only hope to enforce conviction that this answer is the 
only true one by answering the question : Why has it been 
supposed to have such a bearing ? We shall find that 
metaphysical writers seem to have failed to distinguish this 
primary ethical question : What is good ? from various other 
questions; and to point out these distinctions will serve to 
confirm the view that their profession to base Ethics on 
Metaphysics is solely due to confusion. 

70. And, first of all, there is an ambiguity in the very 
question : What is good ? to which it seems some influence 
must be attributed. The question may mean either: Which 
among existing things are good ? or else : What sort of things 
are good, what are the things which, whether they are real or 
not, ought to be real ? And of these two questions it is plain 
that to answer the first, we must know both the answer to the 


second and also the answer to the question : What is real ? It 
asks us for a catalogue of all the good things in the Universe ; 
and to answer it we must know both what things there are in 
the Universe and also which of them are good. Upon this 
question then our Metaphysics would have a bearing, if it can 
tell us what is real. It would help us to complete the list of 
things which are both real and good. But to make such a list 
is not the business of Ethics. So far as it enquires What is 
good ? its business is finished when it has completed the list of 
things which ought to exist, whether they do exist or not. 
And if our Metaphysics is to have any bearing upon this part 
of the ethical problem, it must be because the fact that some- 
thing is real gives a reason for thinking that it or something 
else is good, whether it be real or not. That any such fact can 
give any such reason is impossible ; but it may be suspected 
that the contrary supposition has been encouraged by the 
failure to distinguish between the assertion 'This is good.' when 
it means ' This sort of thing is good,' or ' This would be good, if 
it existed,' and the assertion 'This existing thing is good.' The 
latter proposition obviously cannot be true, unless the thing 
exists; and hence the proof of the thing's existence is a ne- 
cessary step to its proof. Both propositions, however, in spite 
of this immense difference between them, are commonly 
expressed in the same terms. We use the same words, when 
we assert an ethical proposition about a subject that is actually 
real, and when we assert it about a subject considered as 
merely possible. 

In this ambiguity of language we have, then, a possible 
source of error with regard to the bearing of truths that assert 
reality upon truths that assert goodness. And that this 
ambiguity is actually neglected by those metaphysical writers 
who profess that the Supreme Good consists in an eternal 
reality may be shewn in the following way. We have seen, in 
considering the possible bearing of Metaphysics upon Practical 
Ethics, that, since what exists eternally cannot possibly be 
affected by our actions, no practical maxim can possibly be 
true, if the sole reality is eternal. This fact, as I said, is 
commonly neglected by metaphysical writers: they assert both 


of the two contradictory propositions that the sole reality is 
eternal and that its realisation in the future is a good too. 
Prof. Mackenzie, we saw, asserts that we ought to aim at the 
realisation of the true self or ' the rational universe ' : and yet 
Prof. Mackenzie holds, as the word ' true ' plainly implies, that 
both 'the true self and 'the rational universe' are eternally 
real. Here we have already a contradiction in the supposition 
that what is eternally real can be realised in the future ; and it 
is comparatively unimportant whether or not we add to this the 
further contradiction involved in the supposition that the 
eternal is the sole reality. That such a contradiction should be 
supposed valid can only be explained by a neglect of the 
distinction between a real subject and the character which that 
real subject possesses. What is eternally real may, indeed, be 
realised in the future, if by this be only meant the sort of thing 
which is eternally real. But when we assert that a thing is 
good, what we mean is that its existence or reality is good; and 
the eternal existence of a thing cannot possibly be the same 
good as the existence in time of what, in a necessary sense, is 
nevertheless the same thing. When, therefore, we are told that 
the future realisation of the true self is good, this can at most 
only mean that the future realisation of a self exactly like the 
self, which is true and exists eternally, is good. If this fact 
were clearly stated, instead of consistently ignored, by those 
who advocate the view that the Supreme Good can be defined 
in these metaphysical terms, it seems probable that the view that 
a knowledge of reality is necessary to a knowledge of the Supreme 
Good would lose part of its plausibility. That that at which we 
ought to aim cannot possibly be that which is eternally real, 
even if it be exactly like it; and that the eternal reality cannot 
possibly be the sole good these two propositions seem sensibly 
to diminish the probability that Ethics must be based on 
Metaphysics. It is .not very plausible to maintain that because 
one thing is real, therefore something like it, which is not real, 
would be good. It seems, therefore, that some of the plausi- 
bility of Metaphysical Ethics may be reasonably attributed to 
the failure to observe that verbal ambiguity, whereby ' This is 
good ' may mean either ' This real thing is good ' or ' The 


existence of this thing (whether it exists or not) would be 

71. By exposing this ambiguity, then, we are enabled to 
see more clearly what must be meant by the question : Can 
Ethics be based on Metaphysics ? and we are, therefore, more 
likely to find the correct answer. It is now plain that a meta- 
physical principle of Ethics which says 'This eternal reality 
is the Supreme Good' can only mean 'Something like this 
eternal reality would be the Supreme Good.' We are now to 
understand such principles as having the only meaning which 
they can consistently have, namely, as describing the kind of 
thing which ought to exist in the future, and which we ought 
to try to bring about. And, when this is clearly recognised, it 
seems more evident that the knowledge that such a kind of 
thing is also eternally real, cannot help us at all towards 
deciding the properly ethical question : Is the existence of that 
kind of good thing ? If we can see that an eternal reality is 
good, we can see, equally easily, once the idea of such a thing 
has been suggested to us, that it would be good. The meta- 
physical construction of Reality would therefore be quite as 
useful, for the purposes of Ethics, if it were a mere construction 
of an imaginary Utopia : provided the kind of thing suggested 
is the same, fiction is as useful as truth, for giving us matter, 
upon which to exercise the judgment of value. Though, there- 
fore, we admit that Metaphysics may serve an ethical purpose, 
in suggesting things, which would not otherwise have occurred 
to us, but which, when they are suggested, we see to be good ; 
yet, it is not as Metaphysics as professing to tell us what is 
real that it has this use. And, in fact, the pursuit of truth 
must limit the usefulness of Metaphysics in this respect. Wild 
and extravagant as are the assertions which metaphysicians 
have made about reality, it is not to be supposed but that 
they have been partially deterred from making them wilder 
still, by the idea that it was their business to tell nothing but 
the truth. But the wilder they are, and the less useful for 
Metaphysics, the more useful will they be for Ethics; since, in 
order to be sure that we have neglected nothing in the de- 
scription of our ideal, we should have had before us as wide a 


field as possible of suggested goods. It is probable that this 
utility of Metaphysics, in suggesting possible ideals, may some- 
times be what is meant by the assertion that Ethics should be 
based on Metaphysics. It is not uncommon to find that which 
suggests a truth confused with that on which it logically 
depends; and I have already pointed out that Metaphysical 
have, in general, this superiority over Naturalistic systems, that 
they conceive the Supreme Good as something differing more 
widely from what exists here and now. But, if it be recognised 
that, in this sense, Ethics should, far more emphatically, be 
based on fiction, metaphysicians will, I think, admit that a 
connection of this kind between Metaphysics and Ethics would 
by no means justify the importance which they attribute to the 
bearing of the one study on the other. 

72. We may, then, attribute the obstinate prejudice that 
a knowledge of supersensible reality is a necessary step to a 
knowledge of what is good in itself, partly to a failure to per- 
ceive that the subject of the latter judgment is not anything 
real as such, and partly to a failure to distinguish the cause of 
our perception of a truth from the reason why it is true. But 
these two causes will carry us only a very little way in our 
explanation of why Metaphysics should have been supposed to 
have a bearing upon Ethics. The first explanation which I 
have given would only account for the supposition that a thing's 
reality is a necessary condition for its goodness. This supposition 
is, indeed, commonly made ; we find it commonly presupposed 
that unless a thing can be shewn to be involved in the consti- 
tution of reality, it cannot be good. And it is, therefore, worth 
while to insist that this is not the case ; that Metaphysics 
is not even necessary to furnish part of the basis of Ethics. 
But when metaphysicians talk of basing Ethics on Metaphysics 
they commonly mean much more than this. They commonly 
mean that Metaphysics is the sole basis of Ethics that it 
furnishes not only one necessary condition but all the condi- 
tions necessary to prove that certain things are good. And this 
view may, at first sight, appear to be held in two different 
forms. It may be asserted that merely to prove a thing 
supersensibly real is sufficient to prove it good : that the truly 



real must, for that reason alone, be truly good. But more 
commonly it appears to be held that the real must be good 
because it possesses certain characters. And we may, I think, 
reduce the first kind of assertion to no more than this. When 
it is asserted that the real must be good, because it is real, it is 
commonly also held that this is only because, in order to be 
real, it must be of a certain kind. The reasoning by which it 
is thought that a metaphysical enquiry can give an ethical 
conclusion is of the following form. From a consideration of 
what it is to be real, we can infer that what is real must have 
certain supersensible properties : but to have these properties 
is identical with being good it' is the very meaning of the 
word : it follows therefore that what has these properties is 
good : and from a consideration of what it is to be real, we can 
again infer what it is that has these properties. It is plain 
that, if such reasoning were correct, any answer which could be 
given to the question 'What is good in itself?' could be arrived 
at by a purely metaphysical discussion and by that alone. Just 
as, when Mill supposed that ' to be good ' meant ' to be desired,' 
the question ' What is good ? ' could be and must be answered 
solely by an empirical investigation of the question what was 
desired ; so here, if to be good means to have some supersensible 
property, the ethical question can and must be answered by a 
metaphysical enquiry into the question, What has this property ? 
What, then, remains to be done in order to destroy the plausi- 
bility of Metaphysical Ethics, is to expose the chief errors 
which seem to have led metaphysicians to suppose that to be 
good means to possess some supersensible property. 

73. What, then, are the chief reasons which have made it 
seem plausible to maintain that to be good must mean to 
possess some supersensible property or to be related to some 
supersensible reality ? 

We may, first of all, notice one, which seems to have had 
some influence in causing the view that good must be defined 
by some such property, although it does not suggest any par- 
ticular property as the one required. This reason lies in' the 
supposition that the proposition 'This is good' or 'This would 
be good, if it existed' must, in a certain respect, be of the 


same type as other propositions. The fact is that there is one 
type of proposition so familiar to everyone, and therefore having 
such a strong hold upon the imagination, that philosophers have 
always supposed that all other types must be reducible to it. 
This type is that of the objects of experience of all those truths 
which occupy our minds for the immensely greater part of our 
waking lives : truths such as that somebody is in the room, that 
I am writing or eating or talking. All these truths, however 
much they may differ, have this in common that in them both 
the grammatical subject and the grammatical predicate stand for 
something which exists. Immensely the commonest type of 
truth, then, is one which asserts a relation between two existing 
things. Ethical truths are immediately felt not to conform to 
this type, and the naturalistic fallacy arises from the attempt to 
make out that, in some roundabout way,. they do conform to it. 
It is immediately obvious that when we see a thing to be good, 
its goodness is not a property which we can take up in our 
hands, or separate from it even by the most delicate scientific 
instruments, and transfer to something else. It is not, in fact, 
like most of the predicates which we ascribe to things, a part of 
the thing to which we ascribe it. But philosophers suppose that 
the reason why we cannot take goodness up and move it about, 
is not that it is a different kind of object from any which can be 
moved about, but only that it necessarily exists together with 
anything with which it does exist. They explain the type of 
ethical truths by supposing it identical with the type of 
scientific laws. And it is only when they have done this that 
the naturalistic philosophers proper those who are empiricists 
and those whom I have called ' metaphysical ' part company. 
These two classes of philosophers do, indeed, differ with regard 
to the nature of scientific laws. The former class tend to 
suppose that when they say 'This always accompanies that' 
they mean only ' This has accompanied, does now, and will 
accompany that in these particular instances': they reduce the 
scientific law quite simply and directly to the familiar type of 
proposition which I have pointed out. But this does not satisfy 
the metaphysicians. They see that when you say ' This would 
accompany that, if that existed,' you don't mean only that this 


and that have existed and will exist together so many times. But 
it is beyond even their powers to believe that what you do 
mean is merely what you say. They still think you must mean, 
somehow or other, that something does exist, since that is what 
you generally mean when you say anything. They are as 
unable as the empiricists to imagine that you can ever mean 
that 2 + 2 = 4. The empiricists say this means that so many 
couples of couples of things have in each case been four things; 
and hence that 2 and 2 would not make 4, unless precisely those 
things had existed. The metaphysicians feel that this is wrong; 
but they themselves have no better account of its meaning to 
give than either, with Leibniz, that God's mind is in a certain 
state, or, with Kant, that your mind is in a certain state, or 
finally," with Mr Bradley, that something is in a certain state. 
Here, then, we have the root of the naturalistic fallacy. The 
metaphysicians have the merit of seeing that when you say 
'This would be good, if it existed,' you can't mean merely 'This 
has existed and was desired,' however many times that may 
have been the case. They will admit that some good things 
have not existed in this world, and even that some may not 
have been desired. But what you can mean, except that some- 
thing exists, they really cannot see. Precisely the same error 
which leads them to suppose that there must exist a super- 
sensible Reality, leads them to commit the naturalistic fallacy 
with regard to the meaning of 'good.' Every truth, they think, 
must mean somehow that something exists; and since, unlike 
the empiricists, they recognise some truths which do not mean 
that anything exists here and now, these they think must mean 
that something exists not here and now. On the same principle, 
since 'good' is a predicate which neither does nor can exist, 
they are bound to suppose either that 'to be good' means to be 
related to some other particular thing which can exist atid does 
exist 'in reality'; or else that it means merely 'to belong to the 
real world' that goodness is transcended or absorbed in reality. 
74. That such a reduction of all propositions to the type of 
those which assert either that something exists or that some- 
thing which exists has a certain attribute (which means, that 
both exist in a certain relation to one another), is erroneous, 


may easily be seen by reference to the particular class of ethical 
propositions. For whatever we may have proved to exist, and 
whatever two existents we may have proved to be necessarily 
connected with one another, it still remains a distinct and 
different question whether what thus exists is good; whether 
either or both of the two existents is so; and whether it is good 
that they should exist together. To assert the one is plainly 
and obviously not the same thing as to assert the other. We 
understand what we mean by asking : Is this, which exists, or 
necessarily exists, after all, good ? and we perceive that we are 
asking a question which has not been answered. In face of 
this direct perception that the two questions are distinct, no 
proof that they must be identical can have the slightest value. 
That the proposition 'This is good' is thus distinct from" every 
other proposition was proved in Chapter I. ; and I may now 
illustrate this fact by pointing out how it is distinguished from 
two particular propositions with which it has commonly been 
identified. That so and so ought to be done is commonly called 
a moral law, and this phrase naturally suggests that this 
proposition is in some way analogous either to a natural law, or 
to a law in the legal sense, or to both. All three are, in fact, 
really analogous in one respect, and in one respect only: that 
they include a proposition which is universal. A moral law 
asserts 'This is good in all cases'; a natural law asserts 'This 
happens in all cases' ; and a law, in the legal sense, 'It is com- 
manded that this be done, or be left undone, in all cases.' But 
since it is very natural to suppose that the analogy extends 
further, and that the assertion 'This is good in all cases' is 
equivalent to the assertion 'This happens in all cases' or to the 
assertion 'It is commanded that this be done in all cases,' it 
may be useful briefly to point out that they are not equivalent. 
75. -The fallacy of supposing moral law to be analogous to 
natural law in respect of asserting that some action is one which 
is always necessarily done is contained in one of the most famous 
doctrines of Kant. Kant identifies what ought to be with the 
law according to which a Free or Pure Will must act with the 
only kind of action which is possible for it. And by this 
identification he does not mean merely to assert that the Free 


Will is also under the necessity of doing what it ought; he 
means that what it ought to do means nothing but its own law 
the law according to which it must act. It differs from the 
human 'will just in that, what we ought to do, is what it 
necessarily does. It is 'autonomous'; and by this is meant 
{among other things) that there is no separate standard by 
which it can be judged: that the question 'Is the law by which 
this Will acts a good one ?' is, in its case, meaningless. It fol- 
lows that what is necessarily willed by this Pure Will is good, 
not because that Will is good, nor for any other reason; but 
merely because it is what is necessarily willed by a Pure Will. 

Kant's assertion of the ' Autonomy of the Practical Reason ' 
thus has the very opposite effect to that which he desired; 
it makes his Ethics ultimately and hopelessly ' heteronomous.' 
His Moral Law is 'independent' of Metaphysics only in the 
sense that according to him we can know it independently; he 
holds that we can only infer that there is Freedom, from the 
fact that the Moral Law is true. And so far as he keeps strictly 
to this view, he does avoid the error, into which most meta- 
physical writers fall, of allowing his opinions as to what is real 
to influence his judgments of what is good. But he fails to see 
that on his view the Moral Law is dependent upon Freedom in 
a far more important sense than that in which Freedom depends 
on the Moral Law. He admits that Freedom is the ratio 
essendi of the Moral Law, whereas the latter is only ratio cog- 
noscendi of Freedom. And this means that, unless Reality be 
such as he says, no assertion that 'This is good' can possibly be 
true : it can indeed have no meaning. He has, therefore, 
furnished his opponents with a conclusive method of attacking 
the validity of the Moral Law. If they can only shew by some 
other means (which he denies to be possible but leaves theo- 
retically open) that the nature of Reality is not such as he says, 
he cannot deny that they will have proved his ethical principle 
to be false. If that 'This ought to be done' means 'This is 
willed by a Free Will,' then, if it can be shewn that there is no 
Free Will which wills anything, it will follow that nothing ought 
to be done. 

76. And Kant also commits the fallacy of supposing that 


' This ought to be ' means ' This is commanded.' He conceives 
the Moral Law to be an Imperative. And this is a very common 
mistake. ' This ought to be/ it is assumed, must mean 'This is 
commanded ' ; nothing, therefore, would be good unless it were 
commanded; and since commands in this world are liable to be 
erroneous, what ought to be in its ultimate sense means 'what 
is commanded by some real supersensible authority.' With 
regard to this authority it is, then, no longer possible to ask 
Is it righteous ? ' Its commands cannot fail to be right, 
because to be right means to be what it commands. Here, 
therefore, law, in the moral sense, is supposed analogous to law, 
in the legal sense, rather than, as in the last instance, to law in 
the natural sense. It is supposed that moral obligation is 
analogous to legal obligation, with this difference only that 
whereas the source of legal obligation is earthly, that of moral 
obligation is heavenly. Yet it is obvious that if by a source of 
obligation is meant only a power which binds you or compels 
you to do a thing, it is not because it does do this that you 
ought to obey it. It is only if it be itself so good, that it 
commands and enforces only what is good, that it can be a 
source of moral obligation. And in that case what it commands 
and enforces would be good, whether commanded and enforced 
or not. Just that which makes an obligation legal, namely the 
fact that it is commanded by a certain kind of authority, is 
entirely irrelevant to a moral obligation. However an authority 
be defined, its commands will be morally binding only if they 
are morally binding ; only if they tell us what ought to be 
or what is a means to that which ought to be. 

77. In this last error, in the supposition that when I say 
'You ought to do this' I must mean 'You are commanded to do 
this,' we have one of the reasons which has led to the supposition 
that the particular supersensible property by reference to which 
good must be defined is Will. And that ethical conclusions 
may be obtained by enquiring into the nature of a fundamentally 
real Will seems to be by far the commonest assumption of 
Metaphysical Ethics at the present day. But this assumption 
seems to owe its plausibility, not so much to the supposition 
that 'ought' expresses a 'command,' as to a far more funda- 


mental error. This error consists in supposing that to ascribe 
certain predicates to a thing is the same thing as to say that 
that thing is the object of a certain kind of psychical state. It 
is supposed that to say that a thing is real or true is the same 
thing as to say that it is known in a certain way ; and that the 
difference between the assertion that it is good and the asser- 
tion that it is real between an ethical, therefore, and a meta- 
physical proposition consists in the fact that whereas the latter 
asserts its relation to Cognition the former asserts its relation 
to Will. 

Now that this is an error has been already shewn in 
Chapter I. That the assertion ' This is good ' is not identical 
with the assertion 'This is willed/ either by a supersensible will, 
or otherwise, nor with any other proposition, has been proved ; 
nor can I add anything to that proof. But in face of this proof 
it may be anticipated that two lines of defence may be taken 
up. (1) It may be maintained that, nevertheless, they really 
are identical, and facts may be pointed out which seem to prove 
that identity. Or else (2) it may be said that an absolute 
identity is not maintained : that it is only meant to assert that 
there is some special connection between will and goodness, 
such as makes an enquiry into the real nature of the former an 
essential step in the proof of ethical conclusions. In order to 
[meet these two possible objections, I propose first to shew what 
I possible connections there are or may be between goodness and 
will ; and that none of these can justify us in asserting that 
' This is good ' is identical with ' This is willed.' On the other 
hand it will appear that some of them may be easily confused 
with this assertion of identity ; and that therefore the confusion 
is likely to have been made. This part of my argument will, 
therefore, already go some way towards meeting the second 
objection. But what must be conclusive against this is to shew 
that any possible connection between will and goodness except 
the absolute identity in question, would not be sufficient to give 
an enquiry into Will the smallest relevance to the proof of any 
ethical conclusion. 

78. It has been customary, since Kant's time, to assert 
that Cognition, Volition, and Feeling are three fundamentally 

M. 9 


distinct attitudes of the mind towards reality. They are three 
distinct ways of experiencing, and each of them informs us of 
a distinct aspect under which reality may be considered. The 
' Epistemological ' method of approaching Metaphysics rests on 
the assumption that by considering what is ' implied in ' Cog- 
nition what is its 'ideal' we may discover what properties 
the world must have, if it is to be true. And similarly it is 
held that by considering what is ' implied in ' the fact of Willing 
or Feeling what is the 'ideal' which they presuppose we may 
discover what properties the world must have, if it is to be good 
or beautiful. The orthodox Idealistic Epistemologist differs 
from the Sensationalist or Empiricist in holding that what we 
directly cognise is neither all true nor yet the whole truth : in 
order to reject the false and to discover further truths we must, 
he says, not take cognition merely as it presents itself, but dis- 
cover what is implied in it. And similarly the orthodox Meta- 
physical Ethicist differs from the mere Naturalist, in holding 
that not everything which we actually will is good, nor, if good, 
completely good : what is really good is that which is implied 
in the essential nature of will. Others again think that Feeling, 
and not Will, is the fundamental datum for Ethics. But, in 
either case, it is agreed that Ethics has some relation to Will or 
Feeling which it has not to Cognition, and which other objects 
of study have to Cognition. Will or Feeling, on the one hand, 
and Cognition, on the other, are regarded as in some sense co- 
ordinate sources of philosophical knowledge the one of Practical, 
the other of Theoretical philosophy. 

What, that is true, can possibly be meant by this view ? 

79. First of all, it may be meant that, just as, by reflection 
on our perceptual and sensory experience, we become aware of 
the distinction between truth and falsehood, so it is by reflection 
on our experiences of feeling and willing that we become aware 
of ethical distinctions. We should not know what was meant 
by thinking one thing better than another unless the attitude 
of our will or feeling towards one thing was different from its 
attitude towards another. All this may be admitted. But so 
far we have only the psychological fact that it is only because 
we will or feel things in a certain way, that we ever come to : 


think them good ; just as it is only because we have certain 
perceptual experiences, that we ever come to think things true. 
Here, then, is a special connection between willing and good- 
ness; but it is only a causal connection that willing is a 
necessary condition for the cognition of goodness. 

But it may be said further that willing and feeling are not 
only the origin of cognitions of goodness ; but that to will a 
thing, or to have a certain feeling towards a thing, is the same 
thing as to think it good. And it may be admitted that even 
this is generally true in a sense. It does seem to be true that 
we hardly ever think a thing good, and never very decidedly, 
without at the same time having a special attitude of feeling 
or will towards it ; though it is certainly not the case that this 
is true universally. And the converse may possibly be true 
universally : it may be the case that a perception of goodness 
is included in the complex facts which we mean by willing and 
by having certain kinds of feeling. Let us admit then, that 
to think a thing good and to will it are the same thing in this 
sense, that, wherever the latter occurs, the former also occurs 
as a part of it ; and even that they are generally the same thing 
in the converse sense, that when the former occurs it is gener- 
ally a part of the latter. 

80. These facts may seem to give countenance to the 
general assertion that to think a thing good is to prefer it or 
approve it, in the sense in which preference and approval denote 
certain kinds of will or feeling. It seems to be always true 
ithat when we thus prefer or approve, there is included in that 
fact the fact that we think good ; and it is certainly true, in 
an immense majority of instances, that when we think good, 
we also prefer or approve. It is natural enough, then, to say 
that to think good is to prefer. And what more natural than to 
add : When I say a thing is good, I mean that I prefer it ? 
And yet this natural addition involves a gross confusion. Even 
if it be true that to think good is the same thing as to prefer 
(which, as we have seen, is never true in the sense that they 
ire absolutely identical ; and not always true, even in the sense 
:hat they occur together), yet it is not true that what you 
.hink, when you think a thing good, is that you prefer it, 



Even if your thinking the thing good is the same thing as your 
preference of it, yet the goodness of the thing that of which 
you think is, for that very reason, obviously not the same 
thing as your preference of it. Whether you have a certain 
thought or not is one question ; and whether what you think is 
true is quite a different one, upon which the answer to the 
first has not the least bearing. The fact that you prefer a 
thing does not tend to shew that the thing is good ; even if it 
does shew that you think it so. 

It seems to be owing to this confusion, that the question 
'What is good?' is thought to be identical with the question 
'What is preferred?' It is said, with sufficient truth, that you 
would never know a thing was good unless you preferred it, 
just as you would never know a thing existed unless you per- 
ceived it. But it is added, and this is false, that you would 
never know a thing was good unless you knew that you pre- 
ferred it, or that it existed unless you knew that you perceived 
it. And it is finally added, and this is utterly false, that you 
cannot distinguish the fact that a thing is good from the fact 
that you prefer it, or the fact that it exists from the fact that 
you perceive it. It is often pointed out that I cannot at any 
given moment distinguish what is true from what I think so: 
and this is true. But though I cannot distinguish what is 
true from what I think so, I always can distinguish what I 
mean by saying that it is true from what I mean by saying that 
I think so. For I understand the meaning of the supposition 
that what I think true may nevertheless be false. When, 
therefore, I assert that it is true I mean to assert something 
different from the fact that I think so. What I think, namely 
that something is true, is always quite distinct from the fact 
that I think it. The assertion that it is true does not even 
include the assertion that I think it so; although, of course, 
whenever I do think a thing true, it is, as a matter of fact, also 
true that I do think it. This tautologous proposition that for 
a thing to be thought true it is necessary that it should be 
thought, is, however, commonly identified with the proposition 
that for a thing to be true it is necessary that it should be 
thought. A very little reflection should suffice to convince 


anyone that this identification is erroneous; and a very little 
more will shew that, if so, we must mean by 'true' something 
which includes no reference to thinking or to any other 
psychical fact. It may be difficult to discover precisely what 
we mean to hold the object in question before us, so as to 
compare it with other objects: but that we do mean something 
distinct and unique can no longer be matter of doubt. That 
'to be true' means to be thought in a certain way is, therefore, 
certainly false. Yet this assertion plays the most essential part in 
Kant's 'Copernican revolution' of philosophy, and renders worth- 
less the whole mass of modern literature, to which that revolution 
has given rise, and which is called Epistemology. Kant held 
that what was unified in a certain manner by the synthetic 
activity of thought was ipso facto true : that this was the very 
meaning of the word. Whereas it is plain that the only con- 
nection which can possibly hold between being true and being 
thought in a certain way, is that the latter should be a criterion 
or test of the former. In order, however, to establish that it is 
>o, it would be necessary to establish by the methods of induc- 
ion that what was true was always thought in a certain way. 
Modern Epistemology dispenses with this long and difficult 
nvestigation at the cost of the self-contradictory assumption 
.hat 'truth' and the criterion of truth are one and the same 

81. It is, then, a very natural, though an utterly false 
iupposition that for a thing to be true is the same thing as 
or it to be perceived or thought of in a certain way. And 
since, for the reasons given above, the fact of preference seems 
roughly to stand in the same relation to thinking things good, 
in which the fact of perception stands to thinking that they are 
;rue or exist, it is very natural that for a thing to be good 
should be supposed identical with its being preferred in a certain 
way. But once this coordination of Volition and Cognition has 
been accepted, it is again very natural that every fact which 
seems to support the conclusion that being true is identical 
with being cognised should confirm the corresponding con- 
clusion that being good is identical with being willed. It will, 
therefore, be in place to point out another confusion, which 


seems to have had great influence in causing acceptance of the 
view that to be true is the same thing as to be cognised. 

This confusion is due to a failure to observe that when we 
say we have a sensation or perception or that we know a thing, 
we mean to assert not only that our mind is cognitive, but also 
that that which it cognises is true. It is not observed that the 
usage of these words is such that, if a thing be untrue, that 
fact alone is sufficient to justify us in saying that the person 
who says he perceives or knows it, does not perceive or know it, 
without our either enquiring whether, or assuming that, his state 
of mind differs in any respect from what it would have been 
had he perceived or knoAvn. By this denial we do not accuse 
him of an error in introspection, even if there was such an 
error: we do not deny that he was aware of a certain object, 
nor even that his state of mind was exactly such as he took it 
to be: we merely deny that the object, of which he was aware, 
had a certain property. It is, however, commonly supposed 
that when we assert a thing to be perceived or known, we are 
asserting one fact only; and since of the two facts which we 
really assert, the existence of a psychical state is by far the 
easier to distinguish, it is supposed that this is the only one 
which we do assert. Thus perception and sensation have come 
to be regarded as if they denoted certain states of mind and 
nothing more; a mistake which was the easier to make since 
the commonest state of mind, to which we give a name which 
does not imply that its object is true, namely imagination, may r 
with some plausibility, be supposed to differ from sensation and 
perception not only in the property possessed by its object, but 
also in its character as a state of mind. It has thus come to be 
supposed that the only difference between perception and 
imagination, by which they can be defined, must be a merely 
psychical difference: and, if this were the case, it would follow 
at once that to be true was identical with being cognised in 
a certain way ; since the assertion that a thing is perceived does- 
certainly include the assertion that it is true, and if, neverthe- 
less, that it is perceived means only that the mind has a certain 
attitude towards it, then its truth must be identical with the 
fact that it is regarded in this way. We may, then, attribute 


the view that to be true means to be cognised in a certain way 
partly to the failure to perceive that certain words, which are 
commonly supposed to stand for nothing more than a certain 
kind of cognitive state, do, in fact, also include a reference to 
the truth of the object of such states. 

82. I will now sum up my account of the apparent con- 
nections between will and ethical propositions, which seem to 
support the vague conviction that 'This is good' is somehow 
identical with 'This is willed in a certain way.' (1) It may be 
maintained, with sufficient show of truth, that it is only be- 
cause certain things were originally willed, that we ever came 
to have ethical convictions at all. And it has been too com- 
monly assumed that to shew what was the cause of a thing is 
the same thing as to shew what the thing itself is. It is, how- 
ever, hardly necessary to point out that this is not the case. 
(2) It may be further maintained, with some plausibility, that 
to think a thing good and to will it in a certain way are now 
as a matter of fact identical. We must, however, distinguish 
certain possible meanings of this assertion. It may be admitted 
that when we think a thing good, we generally have a special 
attitude of will or feeling towards it ; and that, perhaps, when 
we will it in a certain way, we do always think it good. But 
the very fact that we can thus distinguish the question whether, 
though the one is always accompanied by the other, yet this 
other may not always be accompanied by the first, shews that 
the two things are not, in the strict sense, identical. The fact 
is that, whatever we mean by will, or by any form of will, the fact 
we mean by it certainly always includes something else beside 
the thinking a thing good: and hence that, when willing and 
thinking good are asserted to be identical, the most that can be 
meant is that this other element in will always both accom- 
panies and is accompanied by the thinking good; and this, as 
has been said, is of very doubtful truth. Even, however, if it 
were strictly true, the fact that the two things can be dis- 
tinguished is fatal to the assumed coordination between will 
and cognition, in one of the senses in which that assumption is 
commonly made. For it is only in respect of the other element 
in will, that volition differs from cognition; whereas it is only 


in respect of the fact that volition, or some form of volition, 
includes a cognition of goodness, that will can have the same 
relation to ethical, which cognition has to metaphysical, pro- 
positions. Accordingly the fact of volition, as a whole, that 
is, if we include in it the element which makes it volition and 
distinguishes it from cognition, has not the same relation to 
ethical propositions which cognition has to those which are 
metaphysical. Volition and cognition are not coordinate ways 
of experiencing, since it is only in so far as volition denotes 
a complex fact, which includes in it the one identical simple 
fact, which is meant by cognition, that volition is a way of 
experiencing at all. 

But, (3) if we allow the terms 'volition' or 'will' to stand 
for 'thinking good,' although they certainly do not commonly 
stand for this, there still remains the question : What con- 
nection would this fact establish between volition and Ethics ? 
Could the enquiry into what was willed be identical with the 
ethical enquiry into what was good ? It is plain enough that 
they could not be identical; though it is also plain why they 
should be thought so. The question 'What is good?' is con- 
fused with the question 'What is thought good?' and the 
question 'What is true?' with the question 'What is thought 
true?' for two main reasons. (1) One of these is the general 
difficulty that is found in distinguishing what is cognised from 
the cognition of it. It is observed that I certainly cannot cognise 
anything that is true without cognising it. Since, therefore, 
whenever I know a thing that is true, the thing is certainly 
cognised, it is assumed that for a thing to be true at all is the 
same thing as for it to be cognised. And (2) it is not observed 
that certain words, which are supposed to denote only peculiar 
species of cognition, do as a matter of fact also denote that the 
object cognised is true. Thus if 'perception' be taken to denote 
only a certain kind of mental fact, then, since the object of it is 
always true, it becomes easy to suppose that to be true means 
only to be object to a mental state of that kind. And similarly 
it is easy to suppose that to be truly good differs from being 
falsely thought so, solely in respect of the fact that to be 
the former is to be the object of a volition differing from that 


of which an apparent good is the object, in the same way in 
which a perception (on this supposition) differs from an illusion. 

83. Being good, then, is not identical with being willed 
or felt in any kind of way, any more than being true is identical 
with being thought in any kind of way. But let us suppose 
this to be admitted : Is it still possible that an enquiry into 
the nature of will or feeling should be a necessary step to the 
proof of ethical conclusions ? If being good and being willed 
are not identical, then the most that can be maintained with 
regard to the connection of goodness with will is that what 
is good is ahvays also willed in a certain way, and that what 
is willed in a certain way is always also good. And it may 
be said that this is all that is meant by those metaphysical 
writers who profess to base Ethics upon the Metaphysics of 
Will. What would follow from this supposition ? 

It is plain that if what is willed in a certain way were always 
also good, then the fact that a thing was so willed would be 
a criterion of its goodness. But in order to establish that will 
is a criterion of goodness, we must be able to shew first and 
separately that in a great number of the instances in which we 
find a certain kind of will we also find that the objects of that 
will are good. We might, then, perhaps, be entitled to infer 
that in a few instances, where it was not obvious whether a 
thing was good or not but was obvious that it was willed in 
the way required, the thing was really good, since it had the 
property which in all other instances we had found to be 
accompanied by goodness. A reference to will might thus, 
just conceivably, become of use towards the end of our ethical 
investigations, when we had already been able to shew, in- 
dependently, of a vast number of different objects that they 
were really good and in what degree they were so. And against 
ven this conceivable utility it may be urged (1) That it is 
impossible to see why it should not be as easy (and it would 
certainly be the more secure way) to prove that the thing 
in question was good, by the same methods which we had used 
in proving that other things were good, as by reference to our 
criterion; and (2) That, if we set ourselves seriously to find 
out what things are good, we shall see reason to think (as 


will appear in Chapter VI.) that they have no other property, 
both common and peculiar to them, beside their goodness 
that, in fact, there is no criterion of goodness. 

84. But to consider whether any form of will is or is not 
a criterion of goodness is quite unnecessary for our purpose 
here; since none of those writers who profess to base their 
Ethics on an investigation of will have ever recognised the need 
of proving directly and independently that all the things which 
are willed in a certain way are good. They make no attempt 
to shew that will is a criterion of goodness ; and no stronger 
evidence could be given that they do not recognise that this, 
at most, is all it can be. As has been just pointed out, if we 
are to maintain that whatever is willed in a certain way is also 
good, we must in the first place be able to shew that certain 
things have one property ' goodness,' and that the same things 
also have the other property that they are willed in a certain way. 
And secondly we must be able to shew this in a very large 
number of instances, if we are to be entitled to claim any assent 
for the proposition that these two properties always accompany 
one another : even when this was shewn it would still be 
doubtful whether the inference from 'generally' to 'always' 
woiild be valid, and almost certain that this doubtful principle 
would be useless. But the very question which it is the 
business of Ethics to answer is this question what things are 
good ; and, so long as Hedonism retains its present popularity, 
it must be admitted that it is a question upon which there 
is scarcely any agreement and which therefore requires the 
most careful examination. The greatest and most difficult part 
of the business of Ethics would therefore require to have been 
already accomplished before we could be entitled to claim that 
anything was a criterion of goodness. If, on the other hand, 
to be willed in a certain way was identical with being good, 
then indeed we should be entitled to start our ethical investiga- 
tions by enquiring what was willed in the way required. That 
this is the way in which metaphysical writers start their in- 
vestigations seems to shew conclusively that they are influenced 
by the idea that ' goodness ' is identical with ' being willed/ 
They do not recognise that the question ' What is good ? ' is 


a different one from the question ' What is willed in a certain 
way ? ' Thus we find Green explicitly stating that ' tfie common 
characteristic of the good is that it satisfies some desire 1 .' If 
we are to take this statement strictly, it obviously asserts that 
good things have no characteristic in common, except that they 
satisfy some desire not even, therefore, that they are good. 
And this can only be the case, if being good is identical with 
satisfying desire : if ' good ' is merely another name for ' desire- 
satisfying.' There could be no plainer instance of the natural- 
istic fallacy. And we cannot take the statement as a mere 
verbal slip, which does not affect the. validity of Green's main 
argument. For he nowhere either gives or pretends to give 
any reason for believing anything to be good in any sense, 
except that it is what would satisfy a particular kind of desire 
the kind of desire which he tries to shew to be that of a 
moral agent. An unhappy alternative is before us. Such 
reasoning would give valid reasons for his conclusions, if, and 
only if, being good and being desired in a particular way were 
identical : and in this case, as we have seen in Chapter I., his 
conclusions would not be ethical. On the other hand, if the 
two are not identical, his conclusions may be ethical and may 
even be right, but he has not given us a single reason for 
believing them. The thing which a scientific Ethics is required 
to shew, namely that certain things are really good, he has 
assumed to begin with, in assuming that things which are 
willed in a certain way are always good. We may, therefore, 
have as much respect for Green's conclusions as for those of any 
other man who details to us his ethical convictions : but that 
any of his arguments are such as to give us any reason for 
holding that Green's convictions are more likely to be true than 
those of any other man, must be clearly denied. The Prolego- 
mena to Ethics is quite as far as Mr Spencer's Data of Ethics, 
from making the smallest contribution to the solution of ethical 

85. The main object of this chapter has been to shew that 
Metaphysics, understood as the investigation of a supposed 
supersensible reality, can have no logical bearing whatever upon 

1 Prolegomena to Ethics, p. 178. 


the answer to the fundamental ethical question ' What is good 
in itself?' That this is so, follows at once from the conclusion 
of Chapter I., that 'good' denotes an ultimate, unanalysable 
predicate; but this truth has been so systematically ignored, 
that it seemed worth while to discuss and distinguish, in detail, 
the principal relations, which do hold, or have been supposed 
to hold, between Metaphysics and Ethics. With this view I 
pointed out: (1) That Metaphysics may have a bearing on 
practical Ethics on the question ' What ought we to do ? ' 
so far as it may be able to tell us what the future effects of our 
action will be : what it can not tell us is whether those effects 
are good or bad in themselves. One particular type of meta- 
physical doctrine, which is very frequently held, undoubtedly 
has such a bearing on practical Ethics : for, if it is true that 
the sole reality is an eternal, immutable Absolute, then it 
follows that no actions of ours can have any real effect, and 
hence that no practical proposition can be true. The same 
conclusion follows from the ethical proposition, commonly com- 
bined with this metaphysical one namely that this eternal 
Reality is also the sole good (68). (2) That metaphysical 
writers, as where they fail to notice the contradiction just 
noticed between any practical proposition and the assertion 
that an eternal reality is the sole good, seem frequently to 
confuse the proposition that one particular existing thing is 
good, with the proposition that the existence of that kind 
of thing would be good, wherever it might occur. To the 
proof of the former proposition Metaphysics might be relevant, 
by shewing that the thing existed ; to the proof of the latter 
it is wholly irrelevant : it can only serve the psychological 
function of suggesting things which may be valuable a func- 
tion which would be still better performed by pure fiction 

But the most important source of the supposition that 
Metaphysics is relevant to Ethics, seems to be the assumption 
that ' good ' must denote some real property of things an 
assumption which is mainly due to two erroneous doctrines, the 
first logical, the second epistemological. Hence (3) I discussed 
the logical doctrine that all propositions assert a relation 


between existents; and pointed out that the assimilation of 
ethical propositions either to natural laws or to commands 
are instances of this logical fallacy (72 76). And finally 
(4-) I discussed the epistemological doctrine that to be good is 
equivalent to being willed or felt in some particular way; a 
doctrine which derives support from the analogous error, which 
Kant regarded as the cardinal point of his system and which 
has received immensely wide acceptance the erroneous view 
that to be 'true' or 'real' is equivalent to being thought in 
a particular way. In this discussion the main points to which 
I desire to direct attention are these: (a) That Volition and 
Feeling are not analogous to Cognition "in the manner assumed; 
since in so far as these words denote an attitude of the mind 
towards an object, they are themselves merely instances of 
Cognition: they differ only in respect of the kind of object 
of which they take cognisance, and in respect of the other 
mental accompaniments of such cognitions : (6) That universally 
the object of a cognition must be distinguished from the cog- 
nition of which it is the object; and hence that in no case 
can the question whether the object is true be identical with 
the question how it is cognised or whether it is cognised at all : 
it follows that even if the proposition 'This is good' were 
always the object of certain kinds of will or feeling, the truth 
of that proposition could in no case be established by proving 
that it was their object ; far less can that proposition itself be 
identical with the proposition that its subject is the object of a 
volition or a feeling (77 84). 



86. IN the present chapter we have again to take a great 
step in ethical method. My discussion hitherto has fallen 
under two main heads. Under the first, I tried to shew what 
'good' the adjective 'good' means. This appeared to be 
the first point to be settled in any treatment of Ethics, that 
should aim at being systematic. It is necessary we should 
know this, should know what good means, before we can go on 
to consider what is good what things or qualities are good. 
It is necessary we should know it for two reasons. The first 
reason is that 'good' is the notion upon which all Ethics 
depends, We cannot hope to understand what we mean, when 
we say that this is good or that is good, until we understand 
quite clearly, not only what ' this ' is or ' that ' is (which the 
natural sciences and philosophy can tell us) but also what is 
meant by calling them good, a matter which is reserved for 
Ethics only. Unless we are quite clear on this point, our 
ethical reasoning will be always apt to be fallacious. We shall 
think that we are proving that a thing is ' good,' when we are 
really only proving that it is something else ; since unless we 
know what 'good' means, unless we know what is meant by 
that notion in itself, as distinct from what is meant by any 
other notion, we shall not be able to tell when we are dealing 
with it and when we are dealing with something else, which is 
perhaps like it, but yet not the same. And the second reason 
why we should settle first of all this question 'What good 
means ? ' is a reason of method. It is this, that we can never 


know on what evidence an ethical proposition rests, until we 
know the nature of the notion which makes the proposition 
ethical. We cannot tell what is possible, by way of proof, 
in favour of one judgment that 'This or that is good/ or against 
another judgment 'That this or that is bad/ until we have 
recognised what the nature of such propositions must always 
be. In fact, it follows from the meaning of good and bad, that 
such propositions are all of them, in Kant's phrase, 'synthetic': 
they all must rest in the end upon some proposition which 
must be simply accepted or rejected, which cannot be logically 
deduced from any other proposition. This result, which follows 
from our first investigation, may be otherwise expressed by 
saying that the fundamental principles of Ethics must be self- 
evident. But I am anxious that this expression should not be 
misunderstood. The expression 'self-evident' means properly 
that the proposition so called is evident or true, by itself alone ; 
that it is not an inference from some proposition other than 
itself. The expression does not mean that the proposition is 
true, because it is evident to you or me or all mankind, because 
in other words it appears to us to be true. That a proposition 
appears to be true can never be a valid argument that true it 
really is. By saying that a proposition is self-evident, we mean 
emphatically that its appearing so to us, is not the reason why 
it is true : for we mean that it has absolutely no reason. It 
would not be a self-evident proposition, if we could say of it : 
I cannot think otherwise and therefore it is true. For then its 
evidence or proof would not lie in itself, but in something else, 
namely our conviction of it. That it appears true to us may 
indeed be the cause of our asserting it, or the reason why we 
think and say that it is true : but a reason in this sense is 
something utterly different from a logical reason, or reason why 
something is true. Moreover, it is obviously not a reason of 
the same thing. The evidence of a proposition to us is only 
a reason for our holding it to be true : whereas a logical reason, 
or reason in the sense in which self-evident propositions have 
no reason, is a reason why the proposition itself must be true, 
not why we hold it so to be. Again that a proposition is 
evident to us may not only be the reason why we do think or 


affirm it, it may even be a reason why we ought to think it or 
affirm it. But a reason, in this sense too, is not a logical 
reason for the truth of the proposition, though it is a logical 
reason for the Tightness of holding the proposition. In our 
common language, however, these three meanings of ' reason ' 
are constantly confused, whenever we say ' I have a reason 
for thinking that true.' But it is absolutely essential, if we are 
to get clear notions about Ethics or, indeed, about any other, 
especially any philosophical, study, that we should distinguish 
them. When, therefore, I talk of Intuitionistic Hedonism, 
I must not be understood to imply that my denial that 'Pleasure 
is the only good' is based on my Intuition of its falsehood. My 
Intuition of its falsehood is indeed my reason for holding and 
declaring it untrue ; it is indeed the only valid reason for so 
doing. But that is just because there is no logical reason for 
it ; because there is no proper evidence or reason of its false- 
hood except itself alone. It is untrue, because it is untrue, and 
there is no other reason : but I declare it untrue, because its 
untruth is evident to me, and I hold that that is a sufficient 
reason for my assertion. We must not therefore look on 
Intuition, as if it were an alternative to reasoning. Nothing 
whatever can take the place of reasons for the truth of any 
proposition : intuition can only furnish a reason for holding any 
proposition to be true : this however it must do when any pro- 
position is self-evident, when, in fact, there are no reasons 
which prove its truth. 

87. So much, then, for the first step in our ethical method, 
the step which established that good is good and nothing else 
whatever, and that Naturalism was a fallacy. A second step 
was taken when we began to consider proposed self-evident 
principles of Ethics. In this second division, resting on our 
result that good means good, we began the discussion of pro- 
positions asserting that such and such a thing or quality or 
concept was good. Of such a kind was the principle of In- 
tuitionistic or Ethical Hedonism the principle that ' Pleasure 
alone is good.' Following the method established by our first 
discussion, I claimed that the untruth of this proposition was 
self-evident. I could do nothing to prove that it was untrue ; 


I could only point out as clearly as possible what it means, and 
how it contradicts other propositions which appear to be equally 
true. My only object in all this was, necessarily, to convince. 
But even if I did convince, that does not prove that we are 
right. It justifies us in holding that we are so; but neverthe- 
less we may be wrong. On one thing, however, we may justly 
pride ourselves. It is that we have had a better chance of 
answering our question rightly, than Bentham or Mill or 
Sidgwick or others who have contradicted us. For we have 
proved that these have never even asked themselves the question 
which they professed to answer. They have confused it with 
another question: small wonder, therefore, if their answer is 
different from ours. We must be quite sure that the same 
question has been put, before we trouble ourselves at the 
different answers that are given to it. For all we know, the 
whole world would agree with us, if they could once clearly 
understand the question upon which we want their votes. 
Certain it is, that in all those cases where we found a difference 
of opinion, we found also that the question had not been clearly 
understood. Though, therefore, we cannot prove that we are 
right, yet we have reason to believe that everybody, unless he 
is mistaken as to what he thinks, will think the same as we. 
It is as with a sum in mathematics. If we find a gross and 
palpable error in the calculations, we are not surprised or 
troubled that the person who made this mistake has reached 
a different result from ours. We think he will admit that his 
result is wrong, if his mistake is pointed out to him. For 
instance if a man has to add up 5 + 7 + 9, we should not wonder 
that he made the result to be 34, if he started by making 
5 + 7 = 25. And so in Ethics, if we find, as we did, that 
'desirable' is confused with 'desired,' or that 'end' is confused 
with 'means,' we need not be disconcerted that those who have 
committed these mistakes do not agree with us. The only 
difference is that in Ethics, owing to the intricacy of its subject- 
matter, it is far more difficult to persuade anyone either that 
he has made a mistake or that that mistake affects his result. 

In this second division of my subject the division which 
is occupied with the question, 'What is good in itself?' I have 

M. 10 


hitherto only tried to establish one definite result, and that 
a negative one: namely that pleasure is not the sole good. 
This result, if true, refutes half, or more than half, of the ethical 
theories which have ever been held, and is, therefore, not with- 
out importance. It will, however, be necessary presently to 
deal positively with the question: What things are good and in 
what degrees? 

88. But before proceeding to this discussion I propose, first, 
to deal with the third kind of ethical question the question: 
What ought we to do? 

The answering of this question constitutes the third great 
division of ethical enquiry ; and its nature was briefly explained 
in Chap. I. ( 15 17). It introduces into Ethics, as was there 
pointed out, an entirely new question the question what things 
are related as causes to that which is good in itself; and this 
question can only be answered by an entirely new method 
the method of empirical investigation; by means of which 
causes are discovered in the other sciences. To ask what kind 
of actions we ought to perform, or what kind of conduct is right, 
is to ask what kind of effects such action and conduct will pro- 
duce. Not a single question in practical Ethics can be answered 
except by a causal generalisation. All such questions do, indeed, 
also involve an ethical judgment proper the judgment that 
certain effects are better, in themselves, than others. But they 
do assert that these better things are effects are causally 
connected with the actions in question. Every judgment in 
practical Ethics may be reduced to the form: This is a cause 
of that good thing. 

89. That this is the case, that the questions, What is right? 
what is my duty? what ought I to do? belong exclusively to 
this third branch of ethical enquiry, is the first point to which 
I wish to call attention. All moral laws, I wish to shew, are 
merely statements that certain kinds of actions will have good 
effects. The very opposite of this view has been generally 
prevalent in Ethics. 'The right' and 'the useful' have been 
supposed to be at least capable of conflicting with one another, 
and, at all events, to be essentially distinct. It has been 
characteristic of a certain school of moralists, as of moral 


common sense, to declare that the end will never justify the 
means. What I wish first to point out is that 'right' does 
and can mean nothing but 'cause of a good result,' and is thus 
identical with 'useful'; whence it follows that the end always 
will justify the means, and that no action which is not justified 
by its results can be right. That there may be a true propo- 
sition, meant to be conveyed by the assertion 'The end will 
not justify the means/ I fully admit: but that, in another 
sense, and a sense far more fundamental for ethical theory, it 
is utterly false, must first be shewn. 

That the assertion ' I am morally bound to perform this 
action' is identical with the assertion 'This action will produce 
the greatest possible amount of good in the Universe' has already 
been briefly shewn in Chap I. ( 17); but it is important to 
insist that this fundamental point is demonstrably certain. This 
may, perhaps, be best made evident in the following way. It 
is plain that when we assert that a certain action is our absolute 
duty, we are asserting that the performance of that action at 
that time is unique in respect of value. But no dutiful action 
can possibly have unique value in the sense that it is the sole 
thing of value in the world; since, in that case, every such action 
would be the sole good thing, which is a manifest contradiction. 
And for the same reason its value cannot be unique in the sense 
that it has more intrinsic value than anything else in the world ; 
since every act of duty would then be the best thing in the 
world, which is also a contradiction. It can, therefore, be 
unique only in the sense that the whole world will be better, 
if it be performed, than if any possible alternative were taken. 
And the question whether this is so cannot possibly depend 
solely on the question of its own intrinsic value. For any 
action will also have effects different from those of any other 
action; and if any of these have intrinsic value, their value 
is exactly as relevant to the total goodness of the Universe as 
that of their cause. It is, in fact, evident that, however valuable 
an action may be in itself, yet, owing to its existence, the sum 
of good in the Universe may conceivably be made less than if 
some other action, less valuable in itself, had been performed. 
But to say that this is the case is to say that it would have 



been better that the action should not have been done; and 
this again is obviously equivalent to the statement that it 
ought not to have been done that it was not what duty re- 
quired. 'Fiat iustitia, ruat caelum' can only be justified on 
the ground that by the doing of justice the Universe gains more 
than it loses by the falling of the heavens. It is, of course, 
possible that this is the case : but, at all events, to assert that 
justice is a duty, in spite of such consequences, is to assert that 
it is the case. 

Our 'duty,' therefore, can only be defined as that action, 
which will cause more good to exist in the Universe than any 
possible alternative. And what is 'right' or 'morally per- 
missible' only differs from this, as what will not cause less 
good than any possible alternative. When, therefore, Ethics 
presumes to assert that certain ways of acting are 'duties' it 
presumes to assert that to act in those ways will always produce 
the greatest possible sum of good. If we are told that to 'do 
no murder' is a duty, we are told that the action, whatever it 
may be, which is called murder, will under no circumstances 
cause so much good to exist in the Universe as its avoidance. 

90. But, if this be recognised, several most important con- 
sequences follow, with regard to the relation of Ethics to conduct. 
(1) It is plain that no moral law is self-evident, as has 
commonly been held by the Intuitional school of moralists. 
The Intuitional view of Ethics consists in the supposition that 
certain rules, stating that certain actions are always to be done 
or to be omitted, may be taken as self-evident premisses. I have 
shewn with regard to judgments of what is good in itself, that 
this is the case; no reason can be given for them. But it is 
the essence of Intuitionism to suppose that rules of action state- 
ments not of what ought to be, but of what we ought to do 
are in the same sense intuitively certain. Plausibility has been 
lent to this view by the fact that we do undoubtedly make 
immediate judgments that certain actions are obligatory or 
wrong: we are thus often intuitively certain of our duty, in 
a psychological sense. But, nevertheless, these judgments are 
not self-evident and cannot be taken as ethical premisses, 
since, as has now been shewn, they are capable of being 


confirmed or refuted by an investigation of causes and effects. 
It is, indeed, possible that some of our immediate intuitions 
are true ; but since what we intuit, what conscience tells us, is 
that certain actions will always produce the greatest sum of 
good possible under the circumstances, it is plain that reasons 
can be given, which will shew the deliverances of conscience to 
be true or false. 

91. (2) In order to shew that any action is a duty, it is 
necessary to know both what are the other conditions, which 
will, conjointly with it, determine its effects ; to know exactly 
what will be the effects of these conditions; and to know all 
the events which will be in any way affected by our action 
throughout an infinite future. We must have all this causal 
knowledge, and further we must know accurately the degree of 
value both of the action itself and of all these effects ; and must 
be able to determine how, in conjunction with the other things 
in the Universe, they will affect its value as an organic whole. 
And not only this: we must also possess all this knowledge 
with regard to the effects of every possible alternative ; and 
must then be able to see by comparison that the total value 
due to the existence of the action in question will be greater 
than that which would be produced by any of these alternatives. 
But it is obvious that our causal knowledge alone is far too 
incomplete for us ever to assure ourselves of this result. 
Accordingly it follows that we never have any reason to suppose 
that an action is our duty: we can never be sure that any 
action will produce the greatest value possible. 

Ethics, therefore, is quite unable to give us a list of duties : 
but there still remains a humbler task which may be possible 
for Practical Ethics. Although we cannot hope to discover 
which, in a given situation, is the best of all possible alternative 
actions, there may be some possibility of shewing which among 
the alternatives, likely to occur to any one, will produce the 
greatest sum of good. This second task is certainly all that 
Ethics can ever have accomplished : and it is certainly all that 
it has ever collected materials for proving; since no one has 
ever attempted to exhaust the possible alternative actions in any 
particular case. Ethical philosophers have in fact confined their 


attention to a very limited class of actions, which have been 
selected because they are those which most commonly occur to 
mankind as possible alternatives. With regard to these they 
may possibly have shewn that one alternative is better, i.e. 
produces a greater total of value, than others. But it seems 
desirable to insist, that though they have represented this result 
as a determination of duties, it can never really have been so. 
For the term duty is certainly so used that, if we are subse- 
quently persuaded that any possible action would have pro- 
duced more good than the one we adopted, we admit that we 
failed to do our duty. It will, however, be a useful task if 
Ethics can determine Avhich among alternatives likely to occur 
will produce the greatest total value. For, though this alter- 
native cannot be proved to be the best possible, yet it may 
be better than any course of action which we should otherwise 

92. A difficulty in distinguishing this task, which Ethics 
may perhaps undertake with some hope of success, from the 
hopeless task of finding duties, arises from an ambiguity in the 
use of the term ' possible.' An action may, in one perfectly 
legitimate sense, be said to be ' impossible ' solely because the 
idea of doing it does not occur to us. In this sense, then, the 
alternatives which do actually occur to a man would be the 
only possible alternatives ; and the best of these would be the 
best possible action under the circumstances, and hence would 
conform to our definition of ' duty.' But when we talk of the 
best possible action as our duty, we mean by the term any 
action which no other known circumstance would prevent, 
provided the idea of it occurred to us. And this use of the 
term is in accordance with popular usage. For we admit that 
a man may fail to do his duty, through neglecting to think 
of what he might have done. Since, therefore, we say that 
he might have done, what nevertheless did not occur to him, 
it is plain that we do not limit his possible actions to those of 
which he thinks. It might be urged, with more plausibility, 
that we mean by a man's duty only the best of those actions 
of which he might have thought. And it is true that we do 
not blame any man very severely for omitting an action of 


which, as we say, 'he could not be expected to think.' But 
even here it is plain that we recognise a distinction between 
what he might have done and what he might have thought of 
doing: we regard it as a pity that he did not do otherwise. 
And ' duty ' is certainly used in such a sense, that it would be 
a contradiction in terms to say it was a pity that a man did his 

We must, therefore, distinguish a possible action from an 
action of which it is possible to think. By the former we mean 
an action which no known cause would prevent, provided the 
idea of it occurred to us : and that one among such actions, 
which will produce the greatest total good, is what we mean by 
duty. Ethics certainly cannot hope to discover what kind of 
action is always our duty in this sense. It may, however, hope 
to decide which among one or two such possible actions is the 
best : and those which it has chosen to consider are, as a matter 
of fact, the most important of those with regard to which men 
deliberate whether they shall or shall not do them. A decision 
with regard to these may therefore be easily confounded with 
a decision with regard to which is the best possible action. 
But it is to be noted that even though we limit ourselves to 
considering which is the better among alternatives likely to be 
thought of, the fact that these alternatives might be thought 
of is not included is what we mean by calling them possible 
alternatives. Even if in any particular case it was impossible 
that the idea of them should have occurred to a man, the 
question we are concerned with is, which, if it had occurred, 
would have been the best alternative ? If we say that murder 
is always a worse alternative, we mean to assert that it is so, 
even where it was impossible for the murderer to think of 
doing anything else. 

The utmost, then, that Practical Ethics can hope to discover 
is which, among a few alternatives possible under certain 
circumstances, will, on the whole, produce .the best result. 
It may tell us which is the best, in this sense, of certain 
alternatives about which we are likely to deliberate ; and since 
we may also know that, even if we choose none of these, what 
we shall, in that case, do is unlikely to be as good as one "of 


them, it may thus tell us which of the alternatives, among 
which we can choose, it is best to choose. If it could do this it 
would be sufficient for practical guidance. 

93. But (3) it is plain that even this is a task of immense 
difficulty, It is difficult to see how we can establish even a 
probability that by doing one thing we shall obtain a better 
total result than by doing another. I shall merely endeavour 
to point out how much is assumed, when we assume that there 
is such a probability, and on what lines it seems possible that 
this assumption may be justified. It will be apparent that it 
has never yet been justified that no sufficient reason has ever 
yet been found for considering one action more right or more 
wrong than another. 

(a) The first difficulty in the way of establishing a prob- 
ability that one course of action will give a better total result 
than another, lies in the fact that we have to take account 
of the effects of both throughout an infinite future. We have 
no certainty but that, if we do one action now, the Universe 
will, throughout all time, differ in some way from what it 
would have been, if we had done another; and, if there is 
such a permanent difference, it is certainly relevant to our 
calculation. But it is quite certain that our causal knowledge 
is utterly insufficient to tell us what different effects will 
probably result from two different actions, except within a 
comparatively short space of time ; we can certainly only 
pretend to calculate the effects of actions within what may 
be called an ' immediate ' future. No one, when he proceeds 
upon what he considers a rational consideration of effects, 
would guide his choice by any forecast that went beyond a 
few centuries at most ; and, in general, we consider that we 
have acted rationally, if we think we have secured a balance 
of good within a few years or months or days. Yet, if a 
choice guided by such considerations is to be rational, we 
must certainly have some reason to believe that no con- 
sequences of our action in a further future will generally be 
such as to reverse the balance of good that is probable in 
the future which we can foresee. This large postulate must 
be made, if we are ever to assert that the results of one 


action will be even probably better than those of another. 
Our utter ignorance of the far future gives us no justification 
for saying that it is even probably right to choose the greater 
good within the region over which a probable forecast may 
extend. We do, then, assume that it is improbable that effects, 
after a certain time, will, in general, be such as to reverse 
the comparative value of the alternative results within that 
time. And that this assumption is justified must be shewn 
before we can claim to have given any reason whatever for 
acting in one way rather than in another. It may, perhaps, 
be justified by some such considerations as the following. As 
we proceed further and further from the time at which alter- 
native actions are open to us, the events of which either 
action would be part cause become increasingly dependent 
on those other circumstances, which are the same, whichever 
action we adopt. The effects of any individual action seem, 
after a sufficient space of time, to be found only in trifling 
modifications spread over a very wide area, whereas its im- 
mediate effects consist in some prominent modification of a 
comparatively narrow area. Since, however, most of the things 
which have any great importance for good or evil are things 
of this prominent kind, there may be a probability that after 
a certain time all the effects of any particular action become 
so nearly indifferent, that any difference between their value 
and that of the effects of another action, is very unlikely to 
outweigh an obvious difference in the value of the immediate 
effects. It does in fact appear to be the case that, in most 
cases, whatever action we now adopt, 'it will be all the same 
a hundred years hence,' so far as the existence at that time 
of anything greatly good or bad is concerned : and this might, 
perhaps, be shewn to be true, by an investigation of the manner 
in which the effects of any particular event become neutralised 
by lapse of time. Failing such a proof, we can certainly have 
no rational ground for asserting that one of two alternatives 
is even probably right and another wrong. If any of our 
judgments of right and wrong are to pretend to probability, 
we must have reason to think that the effects of our actions 
in the far future will not have value sufficient to outweigh 


any superiority of one set of effects over another in the 
immediate future. 

94. (6) We must assume, then, that if the effects of one 
action are generally better than those of another, so far forward 
in the future as we are able to foresee any probable difference 
in their effects at all, then the total effect upon the Universe 
of the former action is also generally better. We certainly 
cannot hope directly to compare their effects except within a 
limited future ; and all the arguments, which have ever been 
used in Ethics, and upon which we commonly act in common 
life, directed to shewing that one course is superior to another, 
are (apart from theological dogmas) confined to pointing out 
such probable immediate advantages. The question remains 
then; Can we lay down any general rules to the effect that 
one among a few alternative actions will generally produce a 
greater total of good in the immediate future ? 

It is important to insist that this question, limited as it 
is, is the utmost, to which, with any knowledge we have at 
present or are likely to have for a long time to come, Practical 
Ethics can hope to give an answer. I have already pointed 
out that we cannot hope to discover which is the best possible 
alternative in any given circumstances, but only which, among 
a few, is better than the others. And I have also pointed out 
that there is certainly no more than a probability, even if we 
are entitled to assert so much, that what is better in regard 
to its immediate effects will also be better on the whole. It 
now remains to insist that, even with regard to these immediate 
effects, we can only hope to discover which, among a few 
alternatives, will generally produce the greatest balance of 
good in the immediate future. We can secure no title to 
assert that obedience to such commands as 'Thou shalt not 
lie/ or even 'Thou shalt do no murder/ is universally better 
than the alternatives of lying and murder. Reasons why no 
more than a general knowledge is possible have been already 
given in Chap. I. ( 16) ; but they may be recapitulated here. 
In the first place, of the effects, which principally concern us 
in ethical discussions, as having intrinsic value, we know the 
causes so little, that we can scarcely claim, with regard to any 


single one, to have obtained even a hypothetical universal law, 
such as has been obtained in the exact sciences. We cannot 
even say: If this action is performed, under exactly these 
circumstances, and if no others interfere, this important effect, 
at least, will always be produced. But, in the second place, 
an ethical law is not merely hypothetical. If we are to know 
that it will always be better to act in a certain way, under 
certain circumstances, we must know not merely what effects 
such actions will produce, provided no other circumstances 
interfere, but also that no other circumstances will interfere. 
And this it is obviously impossible to know with more than 
probability. An ethical law has the nature not of a scientific 
law but of a scientific prediction : and the latter is always 
merely probable, although the probability may be very great. 
An engineer is entitled to assert that, if a bridge be built 
in a certain way, it will probably bear certain loads for a 
certain time; but he can never be absolutely certain that it 
has been built in the way required, nor that, even if it has, 
some accident will not intervene to falsify his prediction. 
With any ethical law, the same must be the case ; it can be 
no more than a generalisation : and here, owing to the com- 
parative absence of accurate hypothetical knowledge, on which 
the prediction should be based, the probability is comparatively 
small. But finally, for an ethical generalisation, we require to 
know not only what effects will be produced, but also what 
are the comparative values of those effects; and on this 
question too, it must be admitted, considering what a prevalent 
opinion Hedonism has been, that we are very liable to be 
mistaken. It is plain, then, that we are not soon likely to 
know more than that one kind of action will generally produce 
better effects than another; and that more than this has 
certainly never been proved. In no two cases will all the 
effects of any kind of action be precisely the same, because 
in each case some of the circumstances will differ ; and although 
the effects, that are important for good or evil, may be generally 
the same, it is extremely unlikely that they will always be so. 
95. (c) If, now, we confine ourselves to a search for actions 
which are generally better as means than any probable alter- 


native, it seems possible to establish as much as this in defence 
of most of the rules most universally recognised by Common 
Sense. I do not propose to enter upon this defence in detail, 
but merely to point out what seem to be the chief distinct 
principles by the use of which it can be made. 

In the first place, then, we can only shew that one action 
is generally better than another as a means, provided that 
certain other circumstances are given. We do, as a matter of 
fact, only observe its good effects under certain circumstances ; 
and it may be easily seen that a sufficient change in these 
would render doubtful what seem the most universally certain 
of general rules. Thus, the general disutility of murder can 
only be proved, provided the majority of the human race will 
certainly persist in existing. In order to prove that murder, 
if it were so universally adopted as to cause the speedy 
extermination of the race, would not be good as a means, 
we should have to disprove the main contention of pessimism 
namely that the existence of human life is on the whole an 
evil. And the view of pessimism, however strongly we may 
be convinced of its truth or falsehood, is one which never 
has been either proved or refuted conclusively. That universal 
murder would not be a good thing at this moment can therefore 
not be proved. But, as a matter of fact, we can and do assume 
with certainty that, even if a few people are willing to murder, 
most people will not be willing. When, therefore, we say that 
murder is in general to be avoided, we only mean that it is 
so, so long as the majority of mankind will certainly not agree 
to it, but will persist in living. And that, under these circum- 
stances, it is generally wrong for any single person to commit 
murder seems capable of proof. For, since there is in any 
case no hope of exterminating the race, the only effects which 
we have to consider are those which the action will have upon 
the increase of the goods and the diminution of the evils of 
human life. Where the best is not attainable (assuming 
extermination to be the best) one alternative may still be 
better than another. And, apart from the immediate evils 
which murder generally produces, the fact that, if it were a 
common practice, the feeling of insecurity, thus caused, would 


absorb much time, which might be spent to better purpose, 
is perhaps conclusive against it. So long as men desire to live 
as strongly as they do, and so long as it is certain that they 
will continue to do so, anything which hinders them from 
devoting their energy to the attainment of positive goods, 
seems plainly bad as a means. And the general practice of 
murder, falling so far short of universality as it certainly must 
in all known conditions of society, seems certainly to be a 
hindrance of this kind. 

A similar defence seems possible for most of the rules, 
most universally enforced by legal sanctions, such as respect 
of property ; and for some of those most commonly recognised 
by Common Sense, such as industry, temperance and the 
keeping of promises. In any state of society in which men 
have that intense desire for property of some sort, which seems 
to be universal, the common legal rules for the protection of 
property must serve greatly to facilitate the best possible 
expenditure of energy. And similarly : Industry is a means 
to the attainment of those necessaries, without which the 
further attainment of any great positive goods is impossible ; 
temperance merely enjoins the avoidance of those excesses, 
which, by injuring health, would prevent a man from con- 
tributing as much as possible to the acquirement of these 
necessaries; and the keeping of promises greatly facilitates 
cooperation in such acquirement. 

Now all these rules seem to have two characteristics to 
which it is desirable to call attention. (1) They seem all to be 
such that, in any known state of society, a general observance 
of them would be good as a means. The conditions upon which 
their utility depends, namely the tendency to preserve and 
propagate life and the desire of property, seem to be so uni- 
versal and so strong, that it would be impossible to remove 
them ; and, this being so, we can say that, under any conditions 
which could actually be given, the general observance of these 
rules would be good as a means. For, while there seems no 
reason to think that their observance ever makes a society worse 
than one in which they are not observed, it is certainly neces- 
sary as a means for any state of things in which the greatest 


possible goods can be attained. And (2) these rules, since they 
can be recommended as a means to that which is itself only 
a necessary condition for the existence of any great good, can 
be defended independently of correct views upon the primary 
ethical question of what is good in itself. On any view commonly 
taken, it seems certain that the preservation of civilised society, 
which these rules are necessary to effect, is necessary for the 
existence, in any great degree, of anything which may be held 
to be good in itself. 

96. But not by any means all the rules commonly recog- 
nised combine these two characteristics. The arguments offered 
in defence of Common Sense morality very often presuppose 
the existence of conditions, which cannot be fairly assumed to 
be so universally necessary as the tendency to continue life and 
to desire property. Such arguments, accordingly, only prove 
the utility of the rule, so long as certain conditions, which may 
alter, remain the same: it cannot be claimed of the rules thus 
defended, that they would be generally good as means in every 
state of society: in order to establish this universal general 
utility, it would be necessary to arrive at a correct view of what 
is good or evil in itself. This, for instance, seems to be the case 
with most of the rules comprehended under the name of Chastity. 
These rules are commonly defended, by Utilitarian writers or 
writers who assume as their end the conservation of society, 
with arguments which presuppose the necessary existence of 
such sentiments as conjugal jealousy and paternal affection. 
These sentiments are no doubt sufficiently strong and general 
to make the defence valid for many conditions of society. 
But it is not difficult to imagine a civilised society existing 
without them ; and, in such a case, if chastity were still to be 
defended, it would be necessary to establish that its violation 
produced evil effects, other than those due to the assumed 
tendency of such violation to disintegrate society. Such a de- 
fence may, no doubt, be made; but it would require an exami- 
nation into ' the primary ethical question of what is good and 
bad in itself, far more thorough than any ethical writer has 
ever offered to us. Whether this be so in this particular case 
or not, it is certain that a distinction, not commonly recognised, 


should be made between those rules, of which the social utility 
depends upon the existence of circumstances, more or less likely 
to alter, and those of which the utility seems certain under all 
possible conditions. 

97. It is obvious that all the rules, which were enumerated 
above as likely to be useful in almost any state of society, can 
also be defended owing to results which they produce under 
conditions which exist only in particular states of society. And 
it should be noticed that we are entitled to reckon among these 
conditions the sanctions of legal penalties, of social disapproval, 
and of private remorse, where these exist. These sanctions are, 
indeed, commonly treated by Ethics only as motives for the 
doing of actions of which the utility can be proved inde- 
pendently of the existence of these sanctions. And it may 
be admitted that sanctions ought not to be attached to actions 
which would not be right independently. Nevertheless it is 
plain that, where they do exist, they are not only motives but 
also justifications for the actions in question. One of the chief 
reasons why an action should not be done in any particular 
state of society is that it will be punished ; since the punish- 
ment is in general itself a greater evil than would have been 
caused by the omission of the action punished. Thus the 
existence of a punishment may be an adequate reason for re- 
garding an action as generally wrong, even though it has no 
other bad effects but even slightly good ones. The fact that 
an action will be punished is a condition of exactly the same 
kind as others of more or less permanence, which must be taken 
into account in discussing the general utility or disutility of 
an action in a particular state of society. 

98. It is plain, then, that the rules commonly recognised 
by Common Sense, in the society in which we live, and commonly 
advocated as if they were all equally and universally right and 
good, are of very different orders. Even those which seem to 
be most universally good as means, can only be shewn to be 
so, because of the existence of conditions, which, though perhaps 
evils, may be taken to be necessary ; and even these owe their 
more obvious utilities to the existence of other conditions, which 
cannot be taken to be necessary except over longer or shorter 


periods of history, and many of which are evils. Others seem 
to be justifiable solely by the existence of such more or less 
temporary conditions, unless we abandon the attempt to shew 
that they are means to that preservation of society, which is 
itself a mere means, and are able to establish that they are 
directly means to things good or evil in themselves, but which 
are not commonly recognised to be such. 

If, then, we ask what rules are or would be useful to be 
observed in the society in which we live, it seems possible to 
prove a definite utility in most of those which are in general 
both recognised and practised. But a great part of ordinary 
moral exhortation and social discussion consists in the advocat- 
ing of rules, which are not generally practised; and with regard 
to these it seems very doubtful whether a case for their general 
utility can ever be conclusively made out. Such proposed rules 
commonly suffer from three main defects. In the first place, 
(1) the actions which they advocate are very commonly such 
as it is impossible for most individuals to perform by any 
volition. It is far too usual to find classed together with 
actions, which can be performed, if only they be willed, others, 
of which the possibility depends upon the possession of a peculiar 
disposition, which is given to few and cannot even be acquired. 
It may, no doubt, be useful to point out that those who have 
the necessary disposition should obey these rules ; and it would, 
in many cases, be desirable that everybody should have this 
disposition. But it should be recognised that, when we regard 
a thing as a moral rule or law, we mean that it is one which 
almost everybody can observe by an effort of volition, in that 
state of society to which the rule is supposed to apply. (2) Ac- 
tions are often advocated, of which, though they themselves are 
possible, yet the proposed good effects are not possible, because 
the conditions necessary for their existence are not sufficiently 
general. A rule, of which the observance would produce good 
effects, if human nature were in other respects different from 
what it is, is advocated as if its general observance would pro- 
duce the same effects now and at once. In fact, however, by 
the time that the conditions necessary to make its observance 
useful have arisen, it is quite as likely that other conditions, 


rendering its observance unnecessary or positively harmful, may 
also have arisen ; and yet this state of things may be a better 
one than that in which the rule in question would have been 
useful. (3) There also occurs the case in which the usefulness 
of a rule depends upon conditions likely to change, or of which 
the change would be as easy and more desirable than the ob- 
servance of the proposed rule. It may even happen that the 
general observance of the proposed rule would itself destroy 
the conditions upon which its utility depends. 

One or other of these objections seems generally to apply 
to proposed changes in social custom, advocated as being better 
rules to follow than those now actually followed ; and, for this 
reason, it seems doubtful whether Ethics can establish the 
utility of any rules other than those generally practised. But 
its inability to do so is fortunately of little practical moment. 
The question whether the general observance of a rule not 
generally observed, would or would not be desirable, cannot 
much affect the question how any individual ought to act; since, 
on the one hand, there is a large probability that he will not, 
by any means, be able to bring about its general observance, 
and, on the other hand, the fact that its general observance 
would be useful could, in any case, give him no reason to con- 
clude that he himself ought to observe it, in the absence of 
such general observance. 

With regard, then, to the actions commonly classed in Ethics, 
as duties, crimes, or sins, the following points seem deserving of 
notice. (1) By so classing them we mean that they are actions 
which it is possible for an individual to perform or avoid, if he 
only wills to do so ; and that they are actions which everybody 
ought to perform or avoid, when occasion arises. (2) We can 
certainly not prove of any such action that it ought to be done 
or avoided under all circumstances ; we can only prove that its 
performance or avoidance will generally produce better results 
than the alternative. (3) If further we ask of what actions as 
much as this can be proved, it seems only possible to prove it 
with regard to those which are actually generally practised 
among us. And of these some only are such that their general 
performance would be useful in any state of society that seems 

M. 11 


possible ; of others the utility depends upon conditions which 
exist now, but which seem to be more or less alterable. 

99. (d) So much, then, for moral rules or laws, in the 
ordinary sense rules which assert that it is generally useful, 
under more or less common circumstances, for everybody to 
perform or omit some definite kind of action. It remains to 
say something with regard to the principles by which the indi- 
vidual should decide what he ought to do, (a) with regard to 
those actions as to which some general rule is certainly true, 
and (/S) with regard to those where such a certain rule is 

(a) Since, as I have tried to shew, it is impossible to 
establish that any kind of action will produce a better total 
result than its alternative in all cases, it follows that in some 
cases the neglect of an established rule will probably be the 
best course of action possible. The question then arises : Can 
the individual ever be justified in assuming that his is one of 
these exceptional cases ? And it seems that this question may 
be definitely answered in the negative. For, if it is certain that 
in a large majority of cases the observance of a certain rule is 
useful, it follows that there is a large probability that it would 
be wrong to break the rule in any particular case; and the 
uncertainty of our knowledge both of effects and of their value, 
in particular cases, is so great, that it seems doubtful whether 
the individual's judgment that the effects will probably be good 
in his case can ever be set against the general probability that 
that kind of action is wrong. Added to this general ignorance 
is the fact that, if the question arises at all, our judgment will 
generally be biassed by the fact that we strongly desire one of 
the results which we hope to obtain by breaking the rule. It 
seems, then, that with regard to any rule which is generally 
useful, we may assert that it ought always to be observed, not 
on the ground that in every particular case it will be useful, but 
on the ground that in any particular case the probability of its 
being so is greater than that of our being likely to decide rightly 
that we have before us an instance of its disutility. In short, 
though we may be sure that there are cases where the rule 
should be broken, we can never know which those cases are, 


and ought, therefore, never to break it. It is this fact which 
seems to justify the stringency with which moral rules are 
usually enforced and sanctioned, and to give a sense in which 
we may accept as true the maxims that 'The end never justifies 
the means ' and ' That we should never do evil that good may 
come.' The 'means' and the 'evil,' intended by these maxims, 
are, in fact, the breaking of moral rules generally recognised 
and practised, and which, therefore, we may assume to be gene- 
rally useful. Thus understood, these maxims merely point out 
that, in any particular case, although we cannot clearly perceive 
any balance of good produced by keeping the rule and do seem 
to see one that would follow from breaking it, nevertheless the 
rule should be observed. It is hardly necessary to point out 
that this is so only because it is certain that, in general, the 
end does justify the means in question, and that therefore there 
is a probability that in this case it will do so also, although we 
cannot see that it will. 

But moreover the universal observance of a rule which is 
generally useful has, in many cases, a special utility, which 
seems deserving of notice. This arises from the fact that, even 
if we can clearly discern that our case is one where to break the 
rule is advantageous, yet, so far as our example has any effect 
at all in encouraging similar action, it will certainly tend to 
encourage breaches of the rule which are not advantageous. 
We may confidently assume that what will impress the imagi- 
nation of others will not be the circumstances in which our case 
differs from ordinary cases and which justify our exceptional 
action, but the points in which it resembles other actions that 
are really criminal. In cases, then, where example has any 
influence at all, the effect of an exceptional right action will 
generally be to encourage wrong ones.. And this effect will 
probably be exercised not only on other persons but on the 
agent himself. For it is impossible for any one to keep his 
intellect and sentiments so clear, but that, if he has once 
approved of a generally wrong action, he will be more likely 
to approve of it also under other circumstances than those 
which .justified it in the first instance. This inability to dis- 
criminate exceptional cases offers, of course, a still stronger 



reason for the universal enforcement, by legal or social sanctions, 
of actions generally useful. It is undoubtedly well to punish 
a man, who has done an action, right in his case but generally 
wrong, even if his example would not be likely to have a dangerous 
effect. For sanctions have, in general, much more influence 
upon conduct than example ; so that the effect of relaxing 
them in an exceptional case will almost certainly be an en- 
couragement of similar action in cases which are not exceptional. 

The individual can therefore be confidently recommended 
always to conform to rules which are both generally useful and 
generally practised. In the case of rules of which the general ob- 
servance would be useful but does not exist, or of rules which are 
generally practised but which are not useful, no such universal 
recommendations can be made. In many cases the sanctions 
attached may be decisive in favour of conformity to the existing 
custom. But it seems worth pointing out that, even apart 
from these, the general utility of an action most commonly 
depends upon the fact that it is generally practised: in a society 
where certain kinds of theft are the common rule, the utility of 
abstinence from such theft on the part of a single individual 
becomes exceedingly doubtful, even though the common rule is 
a bad one. There is, therefore, a strong probability in favour of 
adherence to an existing custom, even if it be a bad one. But 
we cannot, in this case, assert with any confidence that this pro- 
bability is always greater than that of the individual's power 
to judge that an exception will be useful; since we are here 
supposing certain one relevant fact namely, that the rule, 
which he proposes to follow, would be better than that which 
he proposes to break, if it were generally observed. Con- 
sequently the effect of his example, so far as it tends to break 
down the existing custom, will here be for the good. The cases, 
where another rule would certainly be better than that generally 
observed, are, however, according to what was said above, very 
rare ; and cases of doubt, which are those which arise most fre- 
quently, carry us into the next division of our subject. 

100. (/3) This next division consists in the discussion of 
the method by which an individual should decide what to do 
with regard to possible actions of which the general utility 


cannot be proved. And it should be observed, that, according 
to our previous conclusions, this discussion will cover almost all 
actions, except those which, in our present state of society, are 
generally practised. For it has been urged that a proof of 
general utility is so difficult, that it can hardly be conclusive' 
except in a very few cases. It is certainly not possible with 
regard to all actions which are generally practised; though 
here, if the sanctions are sufficiently strong, they are sufficient 
by themselves to prove the general utility of the individual's 
conformity to custom. And if it is possible to prove a general 
utility in the case of some actions, not generally practised, it 
is certainly not possible to do so by the ordinary method, 
which tries to shew in them a tendency to that preservation 
of. society, which is itself a mere means, but only by the 
method, by which in any case, as will be urged, the individual 
ought to guide his judgment namely, by shewing their direct 
tendency to produce what is good in itself or to prevent what 
is bad. 

The extreme improbability that any general rule with 
regard to the utility of an action will be correct seems, in 
fact, to be the chief principle which should be taken into 
account in discussing how the individual should guide his 
choice. If we except those rules which are both generally 
practised and strongly sanctioned among us, there seem to 
be hardly any of such a kind that equally good arguments 
cannot be found both for and against them. The most that 
can be said for the contradictory principles which are urged 
by moralists of different schools as universal duties, is, in 
general, that they point out actions which, for persons of a 
particular character and in particular circumstances, would and 
do lead to a balance of good. It is, no doubt, possible that 
the particular dispositions and circumstances which generally 
render certain kinds of action advisable, might to some degree 
be formulated. But it is certain that this has never yet been 
done ; and it is important to notice that, even if it were done, 
it would not give us, what moral laws are usually supposed 
to be rules which it would be desirable for every one, or 
even for most people, to follow. Moralists commonly assume 


that, in the matter of actions or habits of action, usually 
recognised as duties or virtues, it is desirable that every one 
should be alike. Whereas it is certain that, under actual 
circumstances, and possible that, even in a much more ideal 
condition of things, the principle of division of labour, according 
to special capacity, which is recognised in respect of employ- 
ments, would also give a better result in respect of virtues. 

It seems, therefore, that, in cases of doubt, instead of 
following rules, of which he is unable to see the good effects 
in his particular case, the individual should rather guide his 
choice by a direct consideration of the intrinsic value or 
vileness of the effects which his action may produce. Judg- 
ments of intrinsic value have this superiority over judgments 
of means that, if once true, they are always true; whereas 
what is a means to a good effect in one case, will not be so 
in another. For this reason the department of Ethics, which 
it would be most useful to elaborate for practical guidance, 
is that which discusses what things have intrinsic value and 
in what degrees; and this is precisely that department which 
has been most uniformly neglected, in favour of attempts to 
formulate rules of conduct. 

We have, however, not only to consider the relative goodness 
of different effects, but also the relative probability of their 
being attained. A less good, that is more likely to be attained, 
is to be preferred to a greater, that is less probable, if the 
difference in probability is great enough to outweigh the 
difference in goodness. And this fact seems to entitle us to 
assert the general truth of three principles, which ordinary 
moral rules are apt to neglect. (1) That a lesser good, for 
which any individual has a strong preference (if only it be a 
good, and not an evil), is more likely to be a proper object for 
him to aim at, than a greater one, which he is unable to 
appreciate. For natural inclination renders it immensely mora 
easy to attain that for which such inclination is felt. (2) Since 
almost every one has a much stronger preference for things 
which closely concern himself, it will in general be right for 
a man to aim rather at goods affecting himself and those in 
whom he has a strong personal interest, than to attempt a 


more extended beneficence. Egoism is undoubtedly superior 
to Altruism as a doctrine of means : in the immense majority 
of cases the best thing we can do is to aim at securing some 
good in which we are concerned, since for that very reason 
'we are far more likely to secure it. (3) Goods, which can be 
secured in a future so near as to be called ' the present,' are in 
general to be preferred to those which, being in a further 
future, are, for that reason, far less certain of attainment. If 
we regard all that we do from the point of view of its Tightness, 
that is to say as a mere means to good, we are apt to neglect 
one fact, at least, which is certain ; namely, that a thing that 
is really good in itself, if it exist now; has precisely the same 
value as a thing of the same kind which may be caused to 
exist in the future. Moreover moral rules, as has been said, 
are, in general, not directly means to positive goods but to 
what is necessary for the existence of positive goods ; and so 
much of our labour must in any case be devoted to securing 
the continuance of what is thus a mere means the claims of 
industry and attention to health determine the employment 
of so large a part of our time, that, in cases where choice is 
open, the certain attainment of a present good will in general 
have the strongest claims upon us. If it were not so, the 
whole of life would be spent in merely assuring its continuance ; 
and, so far as the same rule were continued in the future, that 
for the sake of which it is worth having, would never exist 
at all. 

101. (4) A fourth conclusion, which follows from the fact 
that what is 'right' or what is our 'duty' must in any case 
be defined as what is a means to good, is, as was pointed out 
above ( 89), that the common distinction between these and 
the 'expedient' or 'useful,' disappears. Our 'duty' is merely 
that which will be a means to the best possible, and the 
expedient, if it is really expedient, must be just the same. 
We cannot distinguish them by saying that the former is 
something which we ought to do, whereas of the latter we 
cannot say we 'ought.' In short the two concepts are not, as 
is commonly assumed by all except Utilitarian moralists, simple 
concepts ultimately distinct. There is no such distinction in 


Ethics. The only fundamental distinction is between what is 
good in itself and what is good as a means, the latter of which 
implies the former. But it has been shewn that the distinction 
between 'duty' and 'expediency' does not correspond to this: 
both must be defined as means to good, though both may also 
be ends in themselves. The question remains, then: What is 
the distinction between duty and expediency ? 

One distinction to which these distinct words refer is 
plain enough. Certain classes of action commonly excite the 
specifically moral sentiments, whereas other classes do not. 
And the word 'duty' is commonly applied only to the class 
of actions which excite moral approval, or of which the omission 
excites moral disapproval especially to the latter. Why this 
moral sentiment should have become attached to some kinds 
of actions and not to others is a question which can certainly 
not yet be answered ; but it may be observed that we have 
no reason to think that the actions to which it was attached 
were or are, in all cases, such as aided or aid the survival of 
a race: it was probably originally attached to many religious 
rites and ceremonies which had not the smallest utility in 
this respect. It appears, however, that, among us, the classes of 
action to which it is attached also have two other characteristics 
in enough cases to have influenced the meaning of the words 
'duty' and 'expediency.' One of these is that 'duties' are, 
in general, actions which a considerable number of individuals 
are strongly tempted to omit. The second is that the omission 
of a 'duty' generally entails consequences markedly disagree- 
able to some one else. The first of these is a more universal 
characteristic than the second : since the disagreeable effects 
on other people of the 'self-regarding duties,' prudence and 
temperance, are not so marked as those on the future of the 
agent himself; whereas the temptations to imprudence and 
intemperance are very strong. Still, on the whole, the class 
of actions called duties exhibit both characteristics: they are 
not only actions, against the performance of which there are 
strong natural inclinations, but also actions of which the most 
obvious effects, commonly considered goods, are effects on other 
people. Expedient actions, on the other hand, are actions to 


which strong natural inclinations prompt us almost universally, 
and of which all the most obvious effects, commonly considered 
good, are effects upon the agent. We may then roughly 
distinguish 'duties' from expedient actions, as actions with 
regard to which there is a moral sentiment, which we are 
often tempted to omit, and of which the most obvious effects 
are effects upon others than the agent. 

But it is to be noticed that none of these characteristics, 
by which a 'duty' is distinguished from an expedient action, 
gives us any reason to infer that the former class of actions 
are more useful than the latter that they tend to produce a 
greater balance of good. Nor, when we ask the question, 'Is 
this my duty?' do we mean to ask whether the action in 
question has these characteristics : we are asking simply 
whether it Avill produce the best possible result on the whole. 
And if we asked this question with regard to expedient actions, 
we should quite as often have to answer it in the affirmative 
as when we ask it with regard to actions which have the 
three characteristics of 'duties.' It is true that when we ask 
the question, 'Is this expedient?' we are asking a different 
question namely, whether it will have certain kinds of effect, 
with regard to which we do not enquire whether they are good 
or not. Nevertheless, if it should be doubted in any particular 
case whether these effects were good, this doubt is understood 
as throwing doubt upon the action's expediency: if we are 
required to prove an action's expediency, we can only do 
so by asking precisely the same question by which we should 
prove it a duty namely, 'Has it the best possible effects on 
the whole?' 

Accordingly the question whether an action is a duty or 
merely expedient, is one which has no bearing on the ethical 
question whether we ought to do it. In the sense in which 
either duty or expediency are taken as ultimate reasons for 
doing an action, they are taken in exactly the same sense: 
if I ask whether an action is really my duty or really expedient, 
the predicate of which I question the applicability to the action 
in question is precisely the same. In both cases I am asking, 
'Is this event the best on the whole that I can effect?'; and 


whether the event in question be some effect upon what is 
mine (as it usually is, where we talk of expediency) or some 
other event (as is usual, where we talk of duty), this distinction 
has no more relevance to my answer than the distinction 
between two different effects on me or two different effects on 
others. The true distinction between duties and expedient 
actions is not that the former are actions which it is in any 
sense more useful or obligatory or better to perform, but that 
they are actions which it is more useful to praise and to enforce 
by sanctions, since they are actions which there is a temptation 
to omit. 

102. With regard to 'interested' actions, the case is some- 
what different. When we ask the question, 'Is this really to my 
interest?' we appear to be asking exclusively whether its effects 
upon me are the best possible; and it may well happen that 
what will effect me in the manner, which is really the best 
possible, will not produce the best possible results on the whole. 
Accordingly my true interest may be different from the course 
which is really expedient and dutiful. To assert that an action 
is 'to my interest,' is, indeed, as was pointed out in Chap. III. 
( 59 61), to assert that its effects are really good. 'My own 
good' only denotes some event affecting me, which is good 
absolutely and objectively; it is the thing, and not its goodness, 
which is mine', everything must be either 'a part of universal 
good' or else not good at all; there is no third alternative 
conception 'good for me.' But 'my interest,' though it must be 
something truly good, is only one among possible good effects; 
and hence, by effecting it, though we shall be doing some good, 
we may be doing less good on the whole, than if we had acted 
otherwise. Self-sacrifice may be a real duty; just as the 
sacrifice of any single good, whether affecting ourselves or 
others, may be necessary in order to obtain a better total result. 
Hence the fact that an action is really to my interest, can never 
be a sufficient reason for doing it: by shewing that it is not a 
means to the best possible, we do not shew that it is not to my 
interest, as we do shew that it is not expedient. Nevertheless 
there is no necessary conflict between duty and interest : what 
is to my interest may also be a means to the best possible. 


And the chief distinction conveyed by the distinct words 'duty' 
and 'interest' seems to be not this source of possible conflict, 
but the same which is conveyed by the contrast between 'duty' 
and 'expediency.' By 'interested' actions are mainly meant 
those which, whether a means to the best possible or not, are 
such as have their most obvious effects on the agent; which he 
generally has no temptation to omit; and with regard to which 
we feel no moral sentiment. That is to say, the distinction is 
not primarily ethical. Here too 'duties' are not, in general, 
more useful or obligatory than interested actions; they are only 
actions which it is more useful to praise. 

103. (5) A fifth conclusion, of some importance, in relation 
to Practical Ethics concerns the manner in which 'virtues' are 
to be judged. What is meant by calling a thing a 'virtue'? 

There can be no doubt that Aristotle's definition is right, in 
the main, so far as he says that it is an 'habitual disposition' 
to perform certain actions: this is one of the marks by which 
we should distinguish a virtue from other things. But 'virtue' 
and 'vice' are also ethical terms: that is to say, when we use 
them seriously, we mean to convey praise by the one and dis- 
praise by the other. And to praise a thing is to assert either 
that it is good in itself or else that it is a means to good. Are 
we then to include in our definition of virtue that it must be a 
thing good in itself? 

Now it is certain that virtues are commonly regarded as 
good in themselves. The feeling of moral approbation with 
which we generally regard them partly consists in an attribution 
to them of intrinsic value. Even a Hedonist, when he feels a 
moral sentiment towards them, is regarding them as good-in- 
themselves; and Virtue has been the chief competitor with 
Pleasure for the position of sole good. Nevertheless I do not 
think we can regard it as part of the definition of virtue that it 
should be good in itself. For the name has so far an indepen- 
dent meaning, that if in any particular case a disposition 
commonly considered virtuous were proved not to be good in 
itself, we should not think that a sufficient reason for saying 
that it ivas not a virtue but was only thought to be so. The test 
for the ethical connotation of virtue is the same as that for duty : 


What should we require to be proved about a particular instance, 
in order to say that the name was wrongly applied to it ? And 
the test which is thus applied both to virtues and duties, and 
considered to be final, is the question: Is it a means to good? 
If it could be shewn of any particular disposition, commonly 
considered virtuous, that it was generally harmful, we should 
at once say : Then it is not really virtuous. Accordingly a 
virtue may be defined as an habitual disposition to perform 
certain actions, which generally produce the best possible 
results. Nor is there any doubt as to the kind of actions 
which it is 'virtuous' habitually to perform. They are, in 
general, those which are duties, with this modification that 
we also include those which would be duties, if only it were 
possible for people in general to perform them. Accordingly 
with regard to virtues, the same conclusion holds as with 
regard to duties. If they are really virtues they must be 
generally good as means; nor do I wish to dispute that most 
virtues, commonly considered as such, as well as most duties, 
really are means to good. But it does not follow that they are 
a bit more useful than those dispositions and inclinations which 
lead us to perform interested actions. As duties from expedient 
actions, so virtues are distinguished from other useful disposi- 
tions, not by any superior utility, but by the fact that they are 
dispositions, which it is particularly useful to praise and to 
sanction, because there are strong and common temptations 
to neglect the actions to which they lead. 

Virtues, therefore, are habitual dispositions to perform 
actions which are duties, or which would be duties if a volition 
were sufficient on the part of most men to ensure their perform- 
ance. And duties are a particular class of those actions, of 
which the performance has, at least generally, better total 
results than the omission. They are, that is to say, actions 
generally good as means: but not all such actions are duties; 
the name is confined to that particular class which it is often 
difficult to perform, because there are strong temptations to 
the contrary. It follows that in order to decide whether any 
particular disposition or action is a virtue or a duty, we must 
face all the difficulties enumerated in section (3) of this chapter. 


We shall not be entitled to assert that any disposition or action 
is a virtue or duty except as a result of an investigation, such 
as was there described. We must be able to prove that the 
disposition or action in question is generally better as a means 
than any alternatives possible and likely to occur ; and this we 
shall only be able to prove for particular states of society : what is 
a virtue or a duty in one state of society may not be so in another. 
104. But there is another question with regard to virtues 
and duties which must be settled by intuition alone by the 
properly guarded method which was explained in discussing 
Hedonism. This is the question whether the dispositions and 
actions, commonly regarded (rightly or riot) as virtues or duties, 
are good in themselves ; whether they have intrinsic value. 
Virtue or the exercise of virtue has very commonly been 
asserted by moralists to be either the sole good, or, at least, 
the best of goods. Indeed, so far as moralists have discussed 
the question what is good in itself at all, they have generally 
assumed that it must be either virtue or pleasure. It would 
hardly have been possible that such a gross difference of opinion 
should exist, or that it should have been assumed the discussion 
must be limited to two such alternatives, if the meaning of the 
question had been clearly apprehended. And we have already 
seen that the meaning of the question has hardly ever been 
clearly apprehended. Almost all ethical writers have commit- 
ted the naturalistic fallacy they have failed to perceive that 
the notion of intrinsic value is simple and unique ; and almost 
all have failed, in consequence, to distinguish clearly between 
means and end they have discussed, as if it were simple and 
unambiguous, the question, ' What ought we to do ? ' or ' What 
ought to exist now?' without distinguishing whether the reason 
why a thing ought to be done or to exist now, is that it 
is itself possessed of intrinsic value, or that it is a means 
to what has intrinsic value. We shall, therefore, be prepared 
to find that virtue has as little claim to be considered the sole 
or chief good as pleasure; more especially after seeing that, 
so far as definition goes, to call a thing a virtue is merely to 
declare that it is a means to good. The advocates of virtue 
have, we shall see, this superiority over the Hedonists, that 


inasmuch as virtues are very complex mental facts, there are 
included in them many things which are good in themselves 
and good in a much higher degree than pleasure. The advo- 
cates of Hedonism, on the other hand, have the superiority that 
their method emphasizes the distinction between means and 
ends; although they have not apprehended the distinction 
clearly enough to perceive that the special ethical predicate, 
which they assign to pleasure as not being a mere means, must 
also apply to many other things. 

105. With regard, then, to the intrinsic value of virtue, it 
may be stated broadly: (1) that the majority of dispositions, 
which we call by that name, and which really do conform to the 
definition, so far as that they are dispositions generally valuable 
as means, at least in our society, have no intrinsic value what- 
ever ; and (2) that no one element which is contained in the 
minority, nor even all the different elements put together, can 
without gross absurdity be regarded as the sole good. As to 
the second point it may be observed that even those who hold 
the view that the sole good is to be found in virtue, almost 
invariably hold other views contradictory of this, owing chiefly 
to a failure to analyse the meaning of ethical concepts. The 
most marked instance of this inconsistency is to be found in the 
common Christian conception that virtue, though the sole good, 
can yet be rewarded by something other than virtue. Heaven 
is commonly considered as the reward of virtue ; and yet it is 
also commonly considered, that, in order to be such a reward, it 
must contain some element, called happiness, which is certainly 
not completely identical with the mere exercise of those virtues 
which it rewards. But if so, then something which is not 
virtue must be either good in itself or an element in what has 
most intrinsic value. It is not commonly observed that if a 
thing is really to be a reward, it must be something good in 
itself: it is absurd to talk of rewarding a person by giving him 
something, which is less valuable than what he already has or 
which has no value at all. Thus Kant's view that virtue renders 
us worthy of happiness is in flagrant contradiction with the 
view, which he implies and which is associated with his name, 
that a Good Will is the only thing having intrinsic value. It 


does not, indeed, entitle us to make the charge sometimes 
made, that Kant is, inconsistently, an Eudaemonist or Hedonist : 
for it does not imply that happiness is the sole good. But it 
does imply that the Good Will is not the sole good : that a state 
of things in which we are both virtuous and happy is better in 
itself than one in which the happiness is absent. 

106. In order, however, justly to consider the claims of 
virtue to intrinsic value, it is necessary to distinguish several 
very different mental states, all of which fall under the general 
definition that they are habitual dispositions to perform duties. 
We may thus distinguish three very different states, all of which 
are liable to be confused with one another, upon each of which 
different moral systems have laid great stress, and for each of 
which the claim has been made that it alone constitutes virtue, 
and, by implication, that it is the sole good. We may first of all 
distinguish between (a) that permanent characteristic of mind, 
which consists in the fact that the performance of duty has 
become in the strict sense a habit, like many of the operations 
performed in the putting on of clothes, and (b) that permanent 
characteristic, which consists in the fact that what may be called 
good motives habitually help to cause the performance of duties. 
And in the second division we may distinguish between the 
habitual tendency to be actuated by one motive, namely, the 
desire to do duty for duty's sake, and all other motives, such as 
love, benevolence, etc. We thus get the three kinds of virtue, 
of which we are now to consider the intrinsic value. 

(a) There is no doubt that a man's character may be such 
that he habitually performs certain duties, without the thought 
ever occurring to him, when he wills them, either that they are 
duties or that any good will result from them. Of such a man 
we cannot and do not refuse to say that he possesses the virtue 
consisting in the disposition to perform those duties. I, for 
instance, am honest in the sense that I habitually abstain from 
any of the actions legally qualified as thieving, even where some 
other persons \vould be strongly tempted to commit them. It 
would be grossly contrary to common usage to deny that, 
for this reason, I really have the virtue of honesty : it is quite 
certain that I have an habitual disposition to perform a duty. 


And that as many people as possible should have a like disposi- 
tion is, no doubt, of great utility : it is good as a means. Yet I 
may safely assert that neither my various performances of this 
duty, nor my disposition to perform them, have the smallest 
intrinsic value. It is because the majority of instances of virtue 
seem to be of this nature, that we may venture to assert that 
virtues have, in general, no intrinsic value whatsoever. And 
there seems good reason to think that the more generally they are 
of this nature the more useful they are ; since a great economy 
of labour is effected when a useful action becomes habitual or 
instinctive. But to maintain that a virtue, which includes no 
more than this, is good in itself is a gross absurdity. And of 
this gross absurdity, it may be observed, the Ethics of Aristotle 
is guilty. For his definition of virtue does not exclude a dispo- 
sition to perform actions in this way, whereas his descriptions 
of the particular virtues plainly include such actions : that an 
action, in order to exhibit virtue, must be done rov tca\ov 'kveKa 
is a qualification which he allows often to drop out of sight. 
And, on the other hand, he seems certainly to regard the exer- 
cise of all virtues as an end in itself. His treatment of Ethics 
is indeed, in the most important points, highly unsystematic and 
confused, owing to his attempt to base it on the naturalistic 
fallacy ; for strictly we should be obliged by his words to regard 
Oewpia as the only thing good in itself, in which case the good- 
ness which he attributes to the practical virtues cannot be 
intrinsic value ; while on the other hand he does not seem to 
regard it merely as utility, since he makes no attempt to shew 
that they are means to 6ewpia. But there seems no doubt that 
on the whole he regards the exercise of the practical virtues as 
a good of the same kind as (i.e. having intrinsic value), only in 
a less degree than, Oewpia ; so that he cannot avoid the charge 
that he recommends as having intrinsic value, such instances of 
the exercise of virtue as we are at present discussing instances 
of a disposition to perform actions which, in the modern phrase, 
have merely an 'external Tightness.' That he is right in applying 
the word 'virtue' to such a disposition cannot be doubted. But 
the protest against the view that 'external rightness' is sufficient 
to constitute either ' duty ' or ' virtue ' a protest which is 


commonly, and with some justice, attributed as a merit to 
Christian morals seems, in the main, to be a mistaken way of 
pointing out an important truth: namely, that where there is 
only 'external Tightness' there is certainly no intrinsic value. 
It is commonly assumed (though wrongly) that to call a thing 
a virtue means that it has intrinsic value: and on this 
assumption the view that virtue does not consist in a mere 
disposition to do externally right actions does really constitute 
an advance in ethical truth beyond the Ethics of Aristotle. 
The inference that, if virtue includes in its meaning 'good in 
itself,' then Aristotle's definition of virtue is not adequate and 
expresses a false ethical judgment, is perfectly correct: only the 
premiss that virtue does include this in its meaning is mis- 

107. (6) A man's character may be such that, when he 
habitually performs a particular duty, there is, in each case of 
his performance, present in his mind, a love of some intrinsically 
good consequence which he expects to produce by his action or 
a hatred of some intrinsically evil consequence which he hopes to 
prevent by it. In such a case this love or hatred will generally 
be part cause of his action, and we may then call it one of his 
motives. Where such a feeling as this is present habitually in 
the performance of duties, it cannot be denied that the state of 
the man's mind, in performing it, contains something intrinsic- 
ally good. Nor can it be denied that, where a disposition to 
perform duties consists in the disposition to be moved to them 
by such feelings, we call that disposition a virtue. Here, there- 
fore, we have instances of virtue, the exercise of which really 
contains something that is good in itself. And, in general, we 
may say that wherever a virtue does consist in a disposition to 
have certain motives, the exercise of that virtue may be intrin- 
sically good; although the degree of its goodness may vary 
indefinitely according to the precise nature of the motives and 
their objects. In so far, then, as Christianity tends to emphasize 
the importance of motives, of the 'inward' disposition with 
which a right action is done, we may say that it has done a 
service to Ethics. But it should be noticed that, when Christian 
Ethics, as represented by the New Testament, are praised for 

M. 12 


this, two distinctions of the utmost importance, which they 
entirely neglect, are very commonly overlooked; In the first 
place the New Testament is largely occupied with continuing 
the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, by recommending such 
virtues as 'justice' and 'mercy' as against mere ritual obser- 
vances; and, in so far as it does this, it is recommending virtues 
which may be merely good as means, exactly like the Aristotelian 
virtues. This characteristic of its teaching must therefore be 
rigorously distinguished from that which consists in its enforce- 
ment of such a view as that to be angry without a cause is as bad 
as actually to commit murder. And, in the second place, though 
the New Testament does praise some things which are only good 
as means, and others which are good in themselves, it entirely 
fails to recognise this distinction. Though the state of the 
man who is angry may be really as bad in itself as that of the 
murderer, and so far Christ may be right, His language would lead 
us to suppose that it is also as bad in every way, that it also 
causes as much evil: and this is utterly false. In short, when 
Christian Ethics approves, it does not distinguish whether its 
approval asserts 'This is a means to good' or 'This is good in 
itself; and hence it both praises things merely good as means, 
as if they were good in themselves, and things merely good in 
themselves as if they were also good as means. Moreover it 
should be noticed, that if Christian Ethics does draw attention 
to those elements in virtues which are good in themselves, it is 
by no means alone in this. The Ethics of Plato are distinguished 
by upholding, far more clearly and consistently than any other 
system, the view that intrinsic value belongs exclusively to those 
states of mind which consist in love of what is good or hatred 
of what is evil. 

108. But (c) the Ethics of Christianity are distinguished 
from those of Plato by emphasizing the value of one particular 
motive that which consists in the emotion excited by the idea, 
not of any intrinsically good consequences of the action in 
question, nor even of the action itself, but by that of its right- 
ness. This idea of abstract ' Tightness' and the various degrees 
of the specific emotion excited by it are what constitute the 
specifically 'moral sentiment' or 'conscience.' An action seems 


to be most properly termed 'internally right 1 ,' solely in virtue 
of the fact that the agent has previously regarded it as right : 
the idea of 'rightness' must have been present to his mind, but 
need not necessarily have been among his motives. And we 
mean by a 'conscientious 5 man, one who, when he deliberates, 
always has this idea in his mind, and does not act until he 
believes that his action is right. 

The presence of this idea and its action as a motive certainly 
seem to have become more common objects of notice and com- 
mendation owing to the influence of Christianity; but it is 
important to observe that there is no ground for the view, 
which Kant implies, that it is the only motive which the New 
Testament regards as intrinsically valuable. There seems little 
doubt that when Christ tells us to 'Love our neighbours as 
ourselves,' He did not mean merely what Kant calls 'practical 
love' beneficence of which the sole motive is the idea of its 
rightness, or the emotion caused by that idea. Among the 
'inward dispositions' of which the New Testament inculcates 
the value, there are certainly included what Kant terms mere 
'natural inclinations,' such as pity, etc. 

But what are we to say of virtue, when it consists in a 
disposition to be moved to the performance of duties by this 
idea? It seems difficult to deny that the emotion excited by 
rightness as such has some intrinsic value; and still more 
difficult to deny that its presence may heighten the value of 
some wholes into which it enters. But, on the other hand, it 
certainly has not more value than many of the motives treated 
in our last section emotions of love towards things really good 
in themselves. And as for Kant's implication that it is the sole 
good 2 , this is inconsistent with other of his own views. For he 
certainly regards it as better to perform the actions, to which he 
maintains that it prompts us namely, 'material' duties than 
to omit them. But, if better at all, then, these actions must be 

1 This sense of the term must be carefully distinguished from that in which 
the agent's intention may be said to be ' right,' if only the results he intended 
would have been the best possible. 

2 Kant, so far as I know, never expressly states this view, but it is implied 
c.ij. in his argument against Heteronomy. 



better either in themselves or as a means. The former hypo- 
thesis would directly contradict the statement that this motive 
was sole good, and the latter is excluded by Kant himself since 
he maintains that no actions can cause the existence of this 
motive. And it may also . be observed that the other claim 
which he makes for it, namely, that it is always good as 
a means, can also not be maintained. It is as certain as 
anything can be that very harmful actions may be done from 
conscientious motives; and that Conscience does not always 
tell us the truth about what actions are right. Nor can it be 
maintained even that it is more useful than many other motives. 
All that can be admitted is that it is one of the things which 
are generally useful. 

What more I have to say with regard to those elements in 
some virtues which are good in themselves, and with regard to 
their relative degrees of excellence, as well as the proof that 
all of them together cannot be the sole good, may be deferred 
to the next chapter. 

109. The main points in this chapter, to which I desire to 
direct attention, may be summarised as follows: (1) I first 
pointed out how the subject-matter with which it deals, namely, 
ethical judgments on conduct, involves a question, utterly 
different in kind from the two previously discussed, namely: 
(a) What is the nature of the predicate peculiar to Ethics? 
and (6) What kinds of things themselves possess this predicate ? 
Practical Ethics asks, not 'What ought to be?' but 'What ought 
we to do?'; it asks what actions are duties, what actions are 
right, and what wrong: and all these questions can only be 
answered by shewing the relation of the actions in question, as 
causes or necessary conditions, to what is good in itself. The 
enquiries of Practical Ethics thus fall entirely under the third 
division of ethical questions questions which ask, 'What is 
good as a means?' which is equivalent to 'What is a means 
to good what is cause or necessary condition of things good 
in themselves?' (86 88). But (2) it asks this question, almost 
exclusively, with regard to actions which it is possible for most 
men to perform, if only they wffl__them; and with regard to 
these, it does not ask merely, which among them will have some 


good or bad result, but which, among all the actions possible to 
volition at any moment, will produce the best total result. To 
assert that an action is a duty, is to assert that it is such 
^a possible action, which will always, in certain known cir- 
> cumstances, produce better results than any other. It follows 
that universal propositions of which duty is predicate, so far 
from being self-evident, always require a proof, which it is 
beyond our present means of knowledge ever to give (89 92). 
But (3) all that Ethics has attempted or can attempt, is to 
shew that certain actions, possible by volition, generally produce 
better or worse total results than any probable alternative : 
and it must obviously be very difficult to shew this with regard 
to the total results even in a comparatively near future ; 
whereas that what has the best results in such a near future, 
also has the best on the whole, is a point requiring an 
investigation which it has not received. If it is true, and if, 
accordingly, we give the name of 'duty' to actions which 
generally produce better total results in the near future than 
any possible alternative, it may be possible to prove that a few 
of the commonest rules of duty are true, but only in certain 
conditions of society, which may be more or less universally 
presented in history ; and such a proof is only possible in some 
cases without a correct judgment of what things are good 
or bad in themselves a judgment which has never yet been 
offered by ethical writers. With regard to actions of which the 
general utility is thus proved, the individual should always 
perform them ; but in other cases, where rules are commonly 
offered, he should rather judge of the probable results in 
his particular case, guided by a correct conception of what 
things are intrinsically good or bad (93 100). (4) In order 
that any action may be shewn to be a duty, it must be 
shewn to fulfil the above conditions ; but the actions commonly 
called 'duties' do not fulfil them to any greater extent 
than 'expedient' or 'interested' actions: by calling them 
'duties' we only mean that they have, in addition, certain 
non-ethical predicates. Similarly by ' virtue ' is mainly meant 
a permanent disposition to perform ' duties ' in this restricted 


sense : and accordingly a virtue, if it is really a virtue, 
must be good as a means, in the sense that it fulfils the 
above conditions; but it is not better as a means than non- 
virtuous dispositions; it generally has no value in itself; 
and, where it has, it is far from being the sole good or the 
best of goods. Accordingly 'virtue' is not, as is commonly 
implied, an unique ethical predicate (101 109). 



110. THE title of this chapter is ambiguous. When we 
call a state of things ' ideal ' we may mean three distinct things, 
which have only this in common : that we always do mean to 
assert, of the state of things in question, not only that it 
is good in itself, but that it is good in itself in a much higher 
degree than many other things. The first of these meanings 
of 'ideal' is (1) that to which the phrase ' The Ideal' is most 
properly confined. By this is meant the best state of things 
conceivable, the Summum Bonum or Absolute Good. It is 
in this sense that a right conception of Heaven would be 
a right conception of the Ideal : we mean by the Ideal a state 
of things which would be absolutely perfect. But this con- 
ception may be quite clearly distinguished from a second, 
namely, (2) that of the best possible state of things in this 
world. This second conception may be identified with that 
which has frequently figured in philosophy as the ' Human 
Good,' or the ultimate end towards which our action should 
be directed. It is in this sense that Utopias are said to be 
Ideals. The constructor of an Utopia may suppose many 
things to be possible, which are in fact impossible; but he 
always assumes that some things, at least, are rendered impos- 
sible by natural laws, and hence his construction differs 
essentially from one which may disregard all natural laws, 
however certainly established. At all events the question 
' What is the best state of things which we could possibly bring 
about ? ' is quite distinct from the question ' What would be the 
best state of things conceivable ? ' But, thirdly, we may mean 


by calling a state of things ' ideal ' merely (3) that it is good 
in itself in a high degree. And it is obvious that the question 
what things are 'ideal' in this sense is one which must be 
answered before we can pretend to settle what is the Absolute 
or the Human Good. It is with the Ideal, in this third sense, 
that this chapter will be principally concerned. Its main 
object is to arrive at some positive answer to the fundamental 
question of Ethics the question : ' What things are goods or 
ends in themselves ? ' To this question we have hitherto 
obtained only a negative answer: the answer that pleasure 
is certainly not the sole good. 

111. I have just said that it is upon a correct answer 
to this question that correct answers to the two other questions, 
What is the Absolute Good ? and What is the Human Good ? 
must depend; and, before proceeding to discuss it, it may 
be well to point out the relation which it has to these two 

(1) It is just possible that the Absolute Good may be 
entirely composed of qualities which we cannot even imagine. 
This is possible, because, though we certainly do know a great 
many things that are good-in-themselves, and good in a high 
degree, yet what is best does not necessarily contain all the 
good things there are. That this is so follows from the 
principle explained in Chap. I. ( 1822), to which it was there 
proposed that the name ' principle of organic unities ' should be 
confined. This principle is that the intrinsic value of a whole 
is neither identical with nor proportional to the sum of the 
values of its parts. It follows from this that, though in order 
to obtain the greatest possible sum of values in its parts, 
the Ideal would necessarily contain all the things which have 
intrinsic value in any degree, yet the whole which contained 
all these parts might not be so valuable as some other whole, 
from which certain positive goods were omitted. But if a 
whole, which does not contain all positive goods, may yet 
be better than a whole which does, it follows that the best 
whole may be one, which contains none of the positive goods 
with which we are acquainted. 

It is, therefore, possible that we cannot discover what 


the Ideal is. But it is plain that, though this possibility 
cannot be denied, no one can have any right to assert that 
it is realised that the Ideal is something unimaginable. We 
cannot judge of the comparative values of things, unless 
the things we judge are before our minds. We cannot, there- 
fore, be entitled to assert that anything, which we cannot 
imagine, would be better than some of the things which we 
can ; although we are also not entitled to deny the possibility 
that this may be the case. Consequently our search for the 
Ideal must be limited to a search for that one, among all 
the wholes composed of elements known to us, which seems to 
be better than all the rest. We shall never be entitled to 
assert that this whole is Perfection, but we shall be entitled 
to assert that it is better than any other which may be presented 
as a rival. 

But, since anything which we can have any reason to think 
ideal must be composed of things that are known to us, it 
is plain that a comparative valuation of these must be our chief 
instrument for deciding what is ideal. The best ideal we can 
construct will be that state of things which contains the 
greatest number of things having positive value, and which 
contains nothing evil or indifferent provided that the presence 
of none of these goods, or the absence of things evil or 
indifferent, seems to diminish the value of the whole. And, 
in fact, the chief defect of such attempts as have been made by 
philosophers to construct an Ideal to describe the Kingdom 
of Heaven seems to consist in the fact that they omit many 
things of very great positive value, although it is plain that 
this omission does not enhance the value of the whole. Where 
this is the case, it may be confidently asserted that the ideal 
proposed is not ideal. And the review of positive goods, which 
I am about to undertake, will, I hope, shew that no ideals yet 
proposed are satisfactory. Great positive goods, it will appear, 
are so numerous, that any whole, which shall contain them all, 
must be of vast complexity. And though this fact renders 
it difficult, or, humanly speaking, impossible, to decide what 
is The Ideal, what is the absolutely best state of things 
imaginable, it is sufficient to condemn those Ideals, which 


are formed by omission, without any visible gain in consequence 
of such omission. Philosophers seem usually to have sought 
only for the best of single things; neglecting the fact that 
a whole composed of two great goods, even though one of these 
be obviously inferior to the other, may yet be often seen to be 
decidedly superior to either by itself. 

(2) On the other hand, Utopias attempted descriptions 
of a Heaven upon Earth commonly suffer not only from this, 
but also from the opposite defect. They are commonly con- 
structed on the principle of merely omitting the great positive 
evils, which exist at present, with utterly inadequate regard 
to the goodness of what they retain : the so-called goods, to 
which they have regard, are, for the most part, things which 
are, at best, mere means to good things, such as freedom, 
without which, possibly, nothing very good can exist in this 
world, but which are of no value in themselves and are by no 
means certain even to produce anything of value. It is, of 
course, necessary to the purpose of their authors, whose object 
is merely to construct the best that may be possible in this 
world, that they should include, in the state of things which 
they describe, many things, which are themselves indifferent, 
but which, according to natural laws, seem to be absolutely 
necessary for the existence of anything which is good. But, in 
fact, they are apt to include many things, of which the 
necessity is by no means apparent, under the mistaken idea 
that these things are goods-in-themselves, and not merely, here 
and now, a means to good : while, on the other hand, they also 
omit from their description great positive goods, of which the 
attainment seems to be quite as possible as many of the changes 
which they recommend. That is to say, conceptions of the 
Human Good commonly en', not only, like those of the Absolute 
Good, in omitting some great goods, but also by including 
things indifferent; and they both omit and include in cases 
where the limitations of natural necessity, by the consideration 
of which they are legitimately differentiated from conceptions 
of the Absolute Good, will not justify the omission and 
inclusion. It is, in fact, obvious that in order to decide 
correctly at what state of things we ought to aim, we must not 

Vl] THE IDEAL 187 

only consider what results it is possible for us to obtain, but 
also which, among equally possible results, will have the 
greatest value. And upon this second enquiry the comparative 
valuation of known goods has a no less important bearing than 
upon the investigation of the Absolute Good. 

112. The method which must be employed in order to 
decide the question 'What things have intrinsic value, and 
in what degrees?' has already been explained in Chap. III. 
( 55, 57). In order to arrive at a correct decision on the first 
part of this question, it is necessary to consider what things are 
such that, if they existed by themselves, in absolute isolation, 
we should yet judge their existence good; and, in order 
to decide upon the relative degrees of value of different things, 
we must similarly consider what comparative value seems to 
attach to the isolated existence of each. By employing this 
method, we shall guard against two errors, which seem to have 
been the chief causes which have vitiated previous conclusions 
on the subject. The first of these is (1) that which consists in 
supposing that what seems absolutely necessary here and now, 
for the existence of anything good what we cannot do with- 
out is therefore good in itself. If we isolate such things, 
which are mere means to good, and suppose a world in which 
they alone, and nothing but they, existed, their intrinsic 
worthlessness becomes apparent. And, secondly, there is the 
more subtle error (2) which consists in neglecting the principle 
of organic unities. This error is committed, when it is 
supposed, that, if one part of a whole has no intrinsic value, the 
value of the whole must reside entirely in the other parts. 
It has, in this way, been commonly supposed, that, if all 
valuable wholes could be seen to have one and only one common 
property, the wholes must be valuable solely because they 
possess this property ; and the illusion is greatly strengthened, 
if the common property in question seems, considered by itself, 
to have more value than the other parts of such wholes, 
considered by themselves. But, if we consider the property 
in question, in isolation, and then compare it with the whole, 
of which it forms a part, it may become easily apparent that, 
existing by itself, the property in question has not nearly 


so much value, as has the whole to which it belongs. Thus, 
if we compare the value of a certain amount of pleasure, 
existing absolutely by itself, with the value of certain ' enjoy- 
ments/ containing an equal amount of pleasure, it may become 
apparent that the 'enjoyment' is much better than the 
pleasure, and also, in some cases, much worse. In such a case 
it is plain that the 'enjoyment ' does not owe its value solely to 
the pleasure it contains, although it might easily have appeared 
to do so, when we only considered the other constituents of the 
enjoyment, and seemed to see that, without the pleasure, they 
would have had no value. It is now apparent, on the contrary, 
that the whole ' enjoyment ' owes its value quite equally to the 
presence of the other constituents, even though it may be true 
that the pleasure is the only constituent having any value 
by itself. And similarly, if we are told that all things owe 
their value solely to the fact that they are ' realisations of the 
true self/ we may easily refute this statement, by asking 
whether the predicate that is meant by ' realising the true self/ 
supposing that it could exist alone, would have any value 
whatsoever. Either the thing, which does ' realise the true self/ 
has intrinsic value or it has not ; and if it has, then it certainly 
does not owe its value solely to the fact that it realises the true 

113. If, now, we use this method of absolute isolation, and 
guard against these errors, it appears that the question we have 
to answer is far less difficult than the controversies of Ethics 
might have led us to expect. Indeed, once the meaning of the 
question is clearly understood, the answer to it, in its main 
outlines, appears to be so obvious, that it runs the risk of 
seeming to be a platitude. By far the most valuable things, 
which we know or can imagine, are certain states of conscious- 
ness, which may be roughly described as the pleasures of human 
intercourse and the enjoyment of beautiful objects. No one, 
probably, who has asked himself the question, has ever doubted 
that personal affection and the appreciation of what is beautiful 
in Art or Nature, are good in themselves ; nor, if we consider 
strictly what things are worth having purely for their own 
sakes, does it appear probable that any one will think that 


anything else has nearly so great a value as the things which 
are included under these two heads. I have myself urged in 
Chap. III. ( 50) that the mere existence of what is beautiful 
does appear to have some intrinsic value; but I regard it as 
indubitable that Prof. Sidgwick was so far right, in the view 
there discussed, that such mere existence of what is beautiful 
has value, so small as to be negligible, in comparison with that 
which attaches to the consciousness of beauty. This simple 
truth may, indeed, be said to be universally recognised. What 
has not been recognised is that it is the ultimate and funda- 
mental truth of Moral Philosophy. That it is only for the sake 
of these things in order that as much of them as possible may 
at some time exist that any one can be justified in performing 
any public or private duty ; that they are the raison d'etre 
of virtue; that it is they these complex wholes themselves, 
and not any constituent or characteristic of them that form 
the rational ultimate end of human action and the sole criterion 
of social progress : these appear to be truths which have been 
generally overlooked. 

That they are truths that personal affections and aesthetic 
enjoyments include all the greatest, and by far the greatest, 
goods we can imagine, will, I hope, appear more plainly in the 
course of that analysis of them, to which I shall now proceed. 
All the things, which I have meant to include under the above 
descriptions, are highly complex organic unities; and in dis- 
cussing the consequences, which follow from this fact, and the 
elements of which they are composed, I may hope at the same 
time both to confirm and to define my position. 

114. I. I propose to begin by examining what I have 
called aesthetic enjoyments, since the case of personal affections 
presents some additional complications. It is, I think, uni- 
versally admitted that the proper appreciation of a beautiful 
object is a good thing in itself; and my question is: What are 
the main elements included in such an appreciation ? 

(1) It is plain that in those instances of aesthetic apprecia- 
tion, which we think most valuable, there is included, not 
merely a bare cognition of what is beautiful in the object, but 
also some kind of feeling or emotion. It is not sufficient that 


a man should merely see the beautiful qualities in a picture 
and know that they are beautiful, in order that we may give 
his state of mind the highest praise. We require that he 
should also appreciate the beauty of that which he sees and 
which he knows to be beautiful that he should feel and see 
its beauty. And by these expressions we certainly mean that 
he should have an appropriate emotion towards the beautiful 
qualities which he cognises. It is perhaps the case that all 
aesthetic emotions have some common quality ; but it is certain 
that differences in the emotion seem to be appropriate to differ- 
ences in the kind of beauty perceived : and by saying that 
different emotions are appropriate to different kinds of beauty, 
we mean that the whole which is formed by the consciousness 
of that kind of beauty together with the emotion appropriate to 
it, is better than if any other emotion had been felt in contem- 
plating that particular beautiful object. Accordingly we have 
a large variety of different emotions, each of which is a necessary 
constituent in some state of consciousness which we judge to 
be good. All of these emotions are essential elements in great 
positive goods ; they are parts of organic wholes, which have 
great intrinsic value. But it is important to observe that these 
wholes are organic, and that, hence, it does not follow that the 
emotion, by itself, would have any value whatsoever, nor yet 
that, if it were directed to a different object, the whole thus 
formed might not be positively bad. And, in fact, it seems to 
be the case that if we distinguish the emotional element, in 
any aesthetic appreciation, from the cognitive element, which 
accompanies it and is, in fact, commonly thought of as a part 
of the emotion ; and if we consider what value this emotional 
element would have, existing by itself, we can hardly think that 
it has any great value, even if it has any at all. Whereas, 
if the same emotion be directed to a different object, if, for 
instance, it is felt towards an object that is positively ugly, the 
whole state of consciousness is certainly often positively bad in 
a high degree. 

115. (2) In the last paragraph I have pointed out the two 
facts, that the presence of some emotion is necessary to give 
any very high value to a state of aesthetic appreciation, and 


that, on the other hand, this same emotion, in itself, may have 
little or no value : it follows that these emotions give to the 
wholes of which they form a part a value far greater than that 
which they themselves possess. The same is obviously true of 
the cognitive element which must be combined with these 
emotions in order to form these highly valuable wholes; and 
the present paragraph will attempt to define what is meant 
by this cognitive element, so far as to guard against a possible 
misunderstanding. When we talk of seeing a beautiful object, 
or, more generally, of the cognition or consciousness of a 
beautiful object, we may mean by these expressions something 
which forms no part of any valuable whole. There is an 
ambiguity in the use of the term ' object,' which has probably 
been responsible for as many enormous errors in philosophy and 
psychology as any other single cause. This ambiguity may 
easily be detected by considering the proposition, which, though 
a contradiction in terms, is obviously true : That when a man 
sees a beautiful picture, he may see nothing beautiful whatever. 
The ambiguity consists in the fact that, by the 'object' of vision 
(or cognition), may be meant either the qualities actually seen 
or all the qualities possessed by the thing seen. Thus in our 
case : when it is said that the picture is beautiful, it is meant 
that it contains qualities which are beautiful ; when it is said 
that the man sees the picture, it is meant that he sees a great 
number of the qualities contained in the picture; and when 
it is said that, nevertheless, he sees nothing beautiful, it is 
meant that he does not see those qualities of the picture which 
are beautiful. When, therefore, I speak of the cognition of a 
beautiful object, as an essential element in a valuable aesthetic 
appreciation, I must be understood to mean only the cognition 
of the beautiful qualities possessed by that object, and not the 
cognition of other qualities of the object possessing them. And 
this distinction must itself be carefully distinguished from the 
other distinction expressed above by the distinct terms ' seeing 
the beauty of a thing ' and ' seeing its beautiful qualities.' By 
' seeing the beauty of a thing ' we commonly mean the having 
an emotion towards its beautiful qualities; whereas in the 
'seeing of its beautiful qualities' we do not include any emotion. 


By the cognitive element, which is equally necessary with 
emotion to the existence of a valuable appreciation, I mean 
merely the actual cognition or consciousness of any or all of an 
object's beautiful qualities that is to say any or all of those 
elements in the object which possess any positive beauty. 
That such a cognitive element is essential to a valuable whole 
may be easily seen, by asking : What value should we attribute 
to the proper emotion excited by hearing Beethoven's Fifth 
Symphony, if that emotion were entirely unaccompanied by 
any consciousness, either of the notes, or of the melodic and 
harmonic relations between them ? And that the mere hearing 
of the Symphony, even accompanied by the appropriate emotion, 
is not sufficient, may be easily seen, if we consider what would 
be the state of a man, who should hear all the notes, but should 
not be aware of any of those melodic and harmonic relations, 
which are necessary to constitute the smallest beautiful elements 
in the Symphony. 

116. (3) Connected with the distinction just made between 
'object' in the sense of the qualities actually before the mind, 
and 'object' in the sense of the whole thing which possesses 
the qualities actually before the mind, is another distinction 
of the utmost importance for a correct analysis of the con- 
stituents necessary to a valuable whole. It is commonly and 
rightly thought that to see beauty in a thing which has no 
beauty is in some way inferior to seeing beauty in that which 
really has it. But under this single description of 'seeing 
beauty in that which has no beauty,' two very different facts, 
and facts of very different value, may be included. We may 
mean either the attribution to an object of really beautiful 
qualities which it does not possess or the feeling towards 
qualities, which the object does possess but which are in reality 
not beautiful, an emotion which is appropriate only to qual- 
ities really beautiful. Both these facts are of very frequent 
occurrence ; and in most instances of emotion both no doubt 
occur together: but they are obviously quite distinct, and 
the distinction is of the utmost importance for a correct 
estimate of values. The former may be called an error of 
judgment, and the latter an error of taste; but it is 


important to observe that the 'error of taste' commonly involves 
a false judgment of value; whereas the 'error of judgment' 
is merely a false judgment of fact. 

Now the case which I have called an error of taste, namely, 
where the actual qualities we admire (whether possessed by the 
'object' or not) are ugly, can in any case have no value, except 
such as may belong to the emotion by itself; and in most, if not 
in all, cases it is a considerable positive evil. In this sense r 
then, it is undoubtedly right to think that seeing beauty in a 
thing which has no beauty is inferior in value to seeing beauty 
where beauty really is. But the other case is much more 
difficult. In this case there is present all that I have hitherto 
mentioned as necessary to constitute a great positive good: 
there is a cognition of qualities really beautiful, together with 
an appropriate emotion towards these qualities. There can, 
therefore, be no doubt that we have here a great positive good. 
But there is present also something else ; namely, a belief that 
these beautiful qualities exist, and that they exist in a certain 
relation to other things namely, to some properties of the 
object to which we attribute these qualities: and further the 
object of this belief is false. And we may ask, with regard 
to the whole thus constituted, whether the presence of the 
belief, and the fact that what is believed is false, make any 
difference to its value? We thus get three different cases 
of which it is very important to determine the relative values. 
Where both the cognition of beautiful qualities and the 
appropriate emotion are present we may also have either, 
(1) a belief in the existence of these qualities, of which the 
object, i.e. that they exist, is true : or (2) a mere cognition, 
without belief, when it is (a) true, (6) false, that the object 
of the cognition, i.e. the beautiful qualities, exists : or (3) a 
belief in the existence of the beautiful qualities, when they do 
not exist. The importance of these cases arises from the fact 
that the second defines the pleasures of imagination, including 
a great part of the appreciation of those works of art which 
are representative ; whereas the first contrasts with these the 
appreciation of what is beautiful in Nature, and the human 
affections. The third, on the other hand, is contrasted with 
M. 13 


both, in that it is chiefly exemplified in what is called 
misdirected affection; and it is possible also that the love 
of God, in the case of a believer, should fall under this 

^117. Now all these three cases, as I have said, have 
something in common, namely, that, in them all, we have 
a cognition of really beautiful qualities together with an 
appropriate emotion towards those qualities. I think, therefore, 
it cannot be doubted (nor is it commonly doubted) that all 
three include great positive goods ; they are all things of which 
we feel convinced that they are worth having for their own 
sakes. And I think that the value of the second, in either 
of its two subdivisions, is precisely the same as the value of the 
element common to all three. In other words, in the case of 
.purely imaginative appreciations we have merely the cognition 
of really beautiful qualities together with the appropriate 
emotion ; and the question, whether the object cognised exists 
or not, seems here, where there is no belief either in its 
existence or in its non-existence, to make absolutely no differ- 
ence to the value of the total state. But it seems to me that 
the two other cases do differ in intrinsic value both from this 
one and from one another, even though the object cognised and 
the appropriate emotion should be identical in all three cases. 
I think that the additional presence of a belief in the reality 
of the object makes the total state much better, if the belief is 
true ; and worse, if the belief is false. In short, where there 
is belief, in the sense in which we do believe in the existence 
of Nature and horses, and do not believe in the existence of an 
ideal landscape and unicorns, the truth of what is believed does 
make a great difference to the value of the organic whole. 
If this be the case, we shall have vindicated the belief that 
knowledge, in the ordinary sense, as distinguished on the 
one hand from belief in what is false and on the other from 
the mere awareness of what is true, does contribute towards 
intrinsic value that, at least in some cases, its presence as a 
part makes a whole more valuable than it could have been 

Now I think there can be no doubt that we do judge that 


there is a difference of value, such as I have indicated, between 
the three cases in question. We do think that the emotional 
contemplation of a natural scene, supposing its qualities equally 
beautiful, is in some way a better state of things than that of a 
painted landscape : we think that the world would be improved 
if we could substitute for the best works of representative art 
real objects equally beautiful. And similarly we regard a 
misdirected affection or admiration, even where the error 
involved is a mere error of judgment and not an error of taste, 
as in some way unfortunate. And further, those, at least, who 
.have a strong respect for truth, are inclined to think that 
a merely poetical contemplation of the Kingdom of Heaven 
would be superior to that of the religious believer, if it were 
the case that the Kingdom of Heaven does not and will not 
really exist. Most persons, on a sober, reflective judgment, would 
feel some hesitation even in preferring the felicity of a madman, 
convinced that the world was ideal, to the condition either of a 
poet imagining an ideal world, or of themselves enjoying and 
appreciating the lesser goods which do and will exist: But, in 
order to assure ourselves that these judgments are really 
judgments of intrinsic value upon the question before us, and 
to satisfy ourselves that they are correct, it is necessary clearly 
to distinguish our question from two others which have a 
very important bearing upon our total judgment of the cases 
in question. 

118. In the first place (a) it is plain that, where we believe, 
the question whether what we believe is true or false, will 
generally have a most important bearing upon the value of our 
belief as a means. Where we believe, we are apt to act upon 
our belief, in a way in which we do not act upon our cognition 
of the events in a novel. The truth of what we believe is, 
therefore, very important as preventing the pains of disappoint- 
lent and still more serious consequences. And it might be 
thought that a misdirected attachment was unfortunate solely 
for this reason : that it leads us to count upon results, which 
the real nature of its object is not of a kind to ensure. So too 
the Love of God, where, as usual, it includes the belief that he 
annex to certain actions consequences, either in this life or 



the next, which the course of nature gives no reason to expect, 
may lead the believer to perform actions of which the actual 
consequences, supposing no such God to exist, may be much 
worse than he might otherwise have effected: and it might 
be thought that this was the sole reason (as it is a sufficient 
one) why we should hesitate to encourage the Love of God, in 
the absence of any proof that he exists. And similarly it may 
be thought that the only reason why beauty in Nature should 
be held superior to an equally beautiful landscape or imagina- 
tion, is that its existence would ensure greater permanence and 
frequency in our emotional contemplation of that beauty. 
It is, indeed, certain that the chief importance of most 
knowledge of the truth of most of the things which we 
believe does, in this world, consist in its extrinsic advantages : 
it is immensely valuable as a means. 

And secondly, (b) it may be the case that the existence 
of that which we contemplate is itself a great positive good, 
so that, for this reason alone, the state of things described 
by saying, that the object of our emotion really exists, would be 
intrinsically superior to that in which it did not. This reason 
for superiority is undoubtedly of great importance in the case 
of human affections, where the object of our admiration is the 
mental qualities of an admirable person ; for that two such 
admirable persons should exist is greatly better than that there 
should be only one : and it would also discriminate the admira- 
tion of inanimate nature from that of its representations in art, 
in so far as we may allow a small intrinsic value to the 
existence of a beautiful object, apart from any contemplation 
of it. But it is to be noticed that this reason would not 
account for any difference in value between the cases where the 
truth was believed and that in which it was merely cognised, 
without either belief or disbelief. In other words, so far as this 
reason goes, the difference between the two subdivisions of our 
second class (that of imaginative contemplation) would be 
as great as between our first class and the second subdivision 
of our second. The superiority of the mere cognition of a 
beautiful object, when that object also happened to exist, over 
the same cognition when the object did not exist, would, 


on this count, be as great as that of the knowledge of a beautiful 
object over the mere imagination of it. 

119. These two reasons for discriminating between the 
value of the three cases we are considering, must, I say, be 
carefully distinguished from that, of which I am now questioning 
the validity, if we are to obtain a correct answer concerning this 
latter. The question I am putting is this : Whether the whole 
constituted by the fact that there is an emotional contemplation 
of a beautiful object, which both is believed to be and is real, 
does not derive some of its value from the fact that the object 
is real ? I am asking whether the value of this whole, as a whole, 
is not greater than that of those which differ from it, either by 
the absence of belief, with or without truth, or, belief being 
present, by the mere absence of truth? I am not asking either 
whether it is not superior to them as a means (which it certainly 
is), nor whether it may not contain a more valuable part, namely, 
the existence of the object in question. My question is solely 
whether the existence of its object does not constitute an 
addition to the value of the whole, quite distinct from the 
addition constituted by the fact that this whole does contain a 
valuable part. 

If, now, we put this question, I cannot avoid thinking that 
it should receive an affirmative answer. We can put it clearly 
by the method of isolation; and the sole decision must rest with 
our reflective judgment upon it, as thus clearly put. We can 
guard against the bias produced by a consideration of value 
as a means by supposing the case of an illusion as complete 
and permanent as illusions in this world never can be. We can 
imagine the case of a single person, enjoying throughout eternity 
the contemplation of scenery as beautiful, and intercourse with 
persons as admirable, as can be imagined; while yet the whole 
of the objects of his cognition are absolutely unreal. I think we 
should definitely pronounce the existence of a universe, which 
consisted solely of such a person, to be greatly inferior in value 
to one in which the objects, in the existence of which he believes, 
did really exist just as he believes them to do; and that it would 
be thus inferior not only because it would lack the goods which 
consist in the existence of the objects in question, but also 


merely because his belief would be false. That it would be 
inferior for this reason alone follows if we admit, what also 
appears to me certain, that the case of a person, merely 
imagining, without believing, the beautiful objects in question, 
would, although these objects really existed, be yet inferior to that 
of the person who also believed in their existence. For here 
all the additional good, which consists in the existence of the 
objects, is present, and yet there still seems to be a great 
difference in value between this case and that in which their 
existence is believed. But I think that my conclusion may 
perhaps be exhibited in a more convincing light by the following 
considerations. (1) It does not seem to me that the small 
degree of value which we may allow to the existence of beautiful 
inanimate objects is nearly equal in amount to the difference 
which I feel that there is between the appreciation (accompanied 
by belief) of such objects, when they really exist, and the purely 
imaginative appreciation of them when they do not exist. 
This inequality is more difficult to verify where the object is 
an admirable person, since a great value must be allowed to his 
existence. But yet I think it is not paradoxical to maintain 
that the superiority of reciprocal affection, where both objects 
are worthy and both exist, over an unreciprocated affection, 
where both are worthy but one does not exist, does not lie 
solely in the fact that, in the former case, we have two good 
things instead of one, but also in the fact that each is such as 
the other believes him to be. (2) It seems to me that the 
important contribution to value made by true belief may be very 
plainly seen in the following case. Suppose that a worthy object 
of affection does really exist and is believed to do so, but that 
there enters into the case this error of fact, that the qualities 
loved, though exactly like, are yet not the same which really do 
exist. This state of things is easily imagined, and I think we 
cannot avoid pronouncing that, although both persons here exist, 
it is yet not so satisfactory as where the very person loved and 
believed to exist is also the one which actually does exist. 

120. If all this be so, we have, in this third section, added 
to our two former results the third result that a true belief in 
the reality of an object greatly increases the value of many 


valuable wholes. Just as in sections (1) and (2) it was main- 
tained that aesthetic and affectionate emotions had little or no J 
value apart from the cognition of appropriate objects, and that ' 
the cognition of these objects had little or no value apart from 
the appropriate emotion, so that the whole, in which both were 
combined, had a value greatly in excess of the sum of the 
values of its parts; so, according to this section, if there be 
added to these wholes a true belief in the reality of the object, 
the new whole thus formed has a value greatly in excess of the 
sum obtained by adding the value of the true belief, considered 
in itself, to that of our original wholes. This new case only 
differs from the former in this, that, whereas the true belief, by 
itself, has quite as little value as either of the two other 
constituents taken singly, yet they, taken together, seem to form 
a whole of very great value, whereas this is not the case with 
the two wholes which might be formed by adding the true 
belief to either of the others. 

The importance of the result of this section seems to lie 
mainly in two of its consequences. (1) That it affords some 
justification for the immense intrinsic value, which seems to be 
commonly attributed to the mere knowledge of some truths, 
and which was expressly attributed to some kinds of knowledge 
by Plato and Aristotle. Perfect knowledge has indeed competed 
with perfect love for the position of Ideal. If the results of this 
section are correct, it appears that knowledge, though having 
little or no value by itself, is an absolutely essential constituent 
in the highest goods, and contributes immensely to their value. 
And it appears that this function may be performed not only 
by that case of knowledge, which we have chiefly considered, 
namely, knowledge of the reality of the beautiful object cognised, 
but also by knowledge of the numerical identity of this object 
with that which really exists, and by the knowledge that the 
existence of that object is truly good. Indeed all knowledge, 
which is directly concerned with the nature of the constituents 
of a beautiful object, would seem capable of adding greatly to 
the value of the contemplation of that object, although, by 
itself, such knowledge would have no value at all. And (2) The 
second important consequence, which follows from this section, 


is that the presence of true belief may, in spite of a great 
inferiority in the value of the emotion and the beauty of its 
object, constitute with them a whole equal or superior in value 
to wholes, in which the emotion and beauty are superior, but 
in which a true belief is wanting or a false belief present. In 
this way we may justify the attribution of equal or superior 
value to an appreciation of an inferior real object, as compared 
with the appreciation of a greatly superior object which is a 
mere creature of the imagination. Thus a just appreciation of 
nature and of real persons may maintain its equality with an 
equally just appreciation of the products of artistic imagination, 
in spite of much greater beauty in the latter. And similarly 
though God may be admitted to be a more perfect object than 
any actual human being, the love of God may yet be inferior to 
human love, if God does not exist. 

121. (4) In order to complete the discussion of this first 
class of goods goods which have an essential reference to 
beautiful objects it would be necessary to attempt a classi- 
fication and comparative valuation of all the different forms of 
beauty, a task which properly belongs to the study called 
Aesthetics. I do not, however, propose to attempt any part 
of this task. It must only be understood that I intend to 
include among the essential constituents of the goods I have 
been discussing, every form and variety of beautiful object, if 
only it be truly beautiful ; and, if this be understood, I think 
it may be seen that the consensus of opinion with regard to 
what is positively beautiful and what is positively ugly, and 
even with regard to great differences in degree of beauty, is 
quite sufficient to allow us a hope that we need not greatly err 
in our judgments of good and evil. In anything which is 
thought beautiful by any considerable number of persons, there 
is probably some beautiful quality; and differences of opinion 
seem to be far more often due to exclusive attention, on the 
part of different persons, to different qualities in the same 
object, than to the positive error of supposing a quality that 
is ugly to be really beautiful. When an object, which some 
think beautiful, is denied to be so by others, the truth is 
usually that it lacks some beautiful quality or is deformed by 


some ugly one, which engage the exclusive attention of the 

I may, however, state two general principles, closely con- 
nected with the results of this chapter, the recognition of which 
would seem to be of great importance for the investigation of 
what things are truly beautiful. The first of these is (1) a 
definition of beauty, of what is meant by saying that a thing 
is truly beautiful. The naturalistic fallacy has been quite as 
commonly committed with regard to beauty as with regard to 
good : its use has introduced as many errors into Aesthetics as 
into Ethics. It has been even more commonly supposed that 
the beautiful may be defined as that which produces certain 
effects upon our feelings ; and the conclusion which follows from 
this namely, that judgments of taste are merely subjective that 
precisely the same thing may, according to circumstances, be 
both beautiful and not beautiful has very frequently been drawn. 
The conclusions of this chapter suggest a definition of beauty, 
which may partially explain and entirely remove the difficulties 
which have led to this error. It appears probable that the 
beautiful should be defined as that of which the admiring con- 
templation is good in itself. That is to say: To assert that 
a thing is beautiful is to assert that the cognition of it is an 
essential element in one of the intrinsically valuable wholes we 
have been discussing ; so that the question, whether it is truly 
beautiful or not, depends upon the objective question whether 
the whole in question is or is not truly good, and does not 
depend upon the question whether it would or would not excite 
particular feelings in particular persons. This definition has 
the double recommendation that it accounts both for the 
apparent connection between goodness and beauty and for the 
no less apparent difference between these two conceptions. It 
appears, at first sight, to be a strange coincidence; that there 
should be two different objective predicates of value, 'good ' and 
'beautiful,' which are nevertheless so related to one another 
that whatever is beautiful is also good. But, if our definition 
bi ' correct, the strangeness disappears ; since it leaves only one 
'iiinnalysable predicate of value, namely ' good,' while ' beautiful,' 
though not identical with, is to be defined by reference to this, 


being thus, at the same time, different from and necessarily 
connected with it. In short, on this view, to say that a thing is 
beautiful is to say, not indeed that it is itself good, but that it 
is a necessary element in something which is : to prove that a 
thing is truly beautiful is to prove that a whole, to which it 
bears a particular relation as a part, is truly good. And in this 
way we should explain the immense predominance, among 
objects commonly considered beautiful, of material objects 
objects of the external senses ; since these objects, though 
themselves having, as has been said, little or no intrinsic value, 
are yet essential constituents in the largest group of wholes 
which have intrinsic value. These wholes themselves may be, 
and are, also beautiful ; but the comparative rarity, with which we 
regard them as themselves objects of contemplation, seems suffi- 
cient to explain the association of beauty with external objects. 
And secondly (2) it is to be observed that beautiful objects 
are themselves, for the most part, organic unities, in this sense, 
that they are wholes of great complexity, such that the con- 
templation of any part, by itself, may have no value, and yet 
that, unless the contemplation of the whole includes the con- 
templation of that part, it will lose in value. From this it follows 
that there can be no single criterion of beauty. It will never be 
true to say : This object owes its beauty solely to the presence 
of this characteristic ; nor yet that: Wherever this characteristic 
is present, the object must be beautiful. All that can be true 
is that certain objects are beautiful, because they have certain 
characteristics, in the sense that they would not be beautiful 
unless they had them. And it may be possible to find that 
certain characteristics are more or less universally present in 
all beautiful objects, and are, in this sense, more or less important 
conditions of beauty. But it is important to observe that the 
very qualities, which differentiate one beautiful object from all 
others, are, if the object be truly beautiful, as essential to its 
beauty, as those which it has in common with ever so many 
others. The object would no more have the beauty it has, 
without its specific qualities, than without those that are 
generic ; and the generic qualities, by themselves, would fail, as 
completely, to give beauty, as those which are specific. 


122. II. It will be remembered that I began this survey 
of great unmixed goods, by dividing all the greatest goods we 
know into the two classes of aesthetic enjoyments, on the one 
hand, and the pleasures of human intercourse or of personal 
affection, on the other. I postponed the consideration of the 
latter on the ground that they presented additional complications 
In what this additional complication consists, will now be 
evident ; and I have already been obliged to take account of it, 
in discussing the contribution to value made by true belief. It 
consists in the fact that in the case of personal affection, the 
object itself is not merely beautiful, while possessed of little or 
no intrinsic value, but is itself, in part at least, of great intrinsic 
value. All the constituents which we have found to be 
necessary to the most valuable aesthetic enjoyments, namely, 
appropriate emotion, cognition of truly beautiful qualities, and 
true belief, are equally necessary here ; but here we have the 
additional fact that the object must be not only truly beautiful, 
but also truly good in a high degree. 

It is evident that this additional complication only occurs in 
so far as there is included in the object of personal affection 
some of the mental qualities of the person towards whom the 
affection is felt. And I think it may be admitted that, 
wherever the affection is most valuable, the appreciation of 
mental qualities must form a large part of it, and that the 
presence of this part makes the whole far more valuable than it 
could have been without it. But it seems very doubtful 
whether this appreciation, by itself, can possess as much value 
as the whole in which it is combined with an appreciation of 
the appropriate corporeal expression of the mental qualities in 
question. It is certain that in all actual cases of valuable 
affection, the bodily expressions of character, whether by looks, 
by words, or by actions, do form a part of the object towards 
which the affection is felt, and that the fact of their inclusion 
appears to heighten the value of the whole state. It is, indeed, 
very difficult to imagine what the cognition of mental qualities 
alune, unaccompanied by any corporeal expression, would be 
like ; and, in so far as we succeed in making this abstraction, 
the whole considered certainly appears to have less value. I 


therefore conclude that the importance of an admiration of 
admirable mental qualities lies chiefly in the immense superiority 
of a whole, in which it forms a part, to one in which it is absent, 
and not in any high degree of intrinsic value which it possesses 
by itself. It even appears to be doubtful, whether, in itself, it 
possesses so much value as the appreciation of mere corporeal 
beauty undoubtedly does possess ; that is to say, whether the 
appreciation of what has great intrinsic value is so valuable as 
the appreciation of what is merely beautiful. 

But further if we consider the nature of admirable mental 
qualities, by themselves, it appears that a proper appreciation of 
them involves a reference to purely material beauty in yet 
another way. Admirable mental qualities do, if our previous 
conclusions are correct, consist very largely in an emotional 
contemplation of beautiful objects ; and hence the appreciation 
of them will consist essentially in the contemplation of such 
contemplation. It is true that the most valuable appreciation 
of persons appears to be that which consists in the appreciation 
of their appreciation of other persons : but even here a reference 
to material beauty appears to be involved, both in respect of the 
fact that what is appreciated in the last instance may be the 
contemplation of what is merely beautiful, and in respect of the 
fact that the most valuable appreciation of a person appears to 
include an appreciation of his corporeal expression. Though, 
therefore, we may admit that the appreciation of a person's 
attitude towards other persons, or, to take one instance, the love 
of love, is far the most valuable good we know, and far more 
valuable than the mere love of beauty, yet we can only admit 
this if the first be understood to include the latter, in various 
degrees of directness. 

With regard to the question what are the mental qualities 
of which the cognition is essential to the value of human inter- 
course, it is plain that they include, in the first place, all those 
varieties of aesthetic appreciation, which formed our first class 
of goods. They include, therefore, a great variety of different 
emotions, each of which is appropriate to some different kind of 
beauty. But we must now add to these the whole range of 
emotions, which are appropriate to persons, and which are 


different from those which are appropriate to mere corporeal 
beauty. It must also be remembered that just as these emotions 
have little value in themselves, and as the state of mind in 
which they exist may have its value greatly heightened, or may 
entirely lose it and become positively evil in a great degree, 
according as the cognitions accompanying the emotions are 
appropriate or inappropriate ; so too the appreciation of these 
emotions, though it may have some value in itself, may yet form 
part of a whole which has far greater value or no value at all, 
according as it is or is not accompanied by a perception of the 
appropriateness of the emotions to their objects. It is obvious, 
therefore, that the study of what is valuable in human inter- 
course is a study of immense complexity ; and that there may 
be much human intercourse which has little or no value, or is 
positively bad. Yet here too, as with the question what is 
beautiful, there seems no reason to doubt that a reflective 
judgment will in the main decide correctly both as to what are 
positive goods and even as to any great differences in value 
between these goods. In particular, it may be remarked that 
the emotions, of which the contemplation is essential to the 
greatest values, and which are also themselves appropriately 
excited by such contemplation, appear to be those which are 
commonly most highly prized under the name of affection. 

123. I have now completed my examination into the nature 
of those great positive goods, which do not appear to include 
among their constituents anything positively evil or ugly, though 
they include much which is in itself indifferent. And I wish 
to point out certain conclusions which appear to follow, with 
regard to the nature of the Summum Bonum, or that state of 
things which would be the most perfect we can conceive. Those 
idealistic philosophers, whose views agree most closely with 
those here advocated, in that they deny pleasure to be the sole 
good and regard what is completely good as having some 
complexity, have usually represented a purely spiritual state 
of existence as the Ideal. Regarding matter as essentially 
imperfect, if not positively evil, they have concluded that the 
total absence of all material properties is necessary to a state 
of perfection. Now, according to what has been said, this view 


would be correct so far as it asserts that any great good must 
be mental, and so far as it asserts that a purely material 
existence, by itself, can have little or no value. The superiority 
of the spiritual over the material has, in a sense, been amply 
vindicated. But it does not follow, from this superiority, that 
a perfect state of things must be one, from which all material 
properties are rigidly excluded : on the contrary, if our conclusions 
are correct, it would seem to be the case that a state of things, 
in which they are included, must be vastly better than any 
conceivable state in which they were absent. In order to see 
that this is so, the chief thing necessary to be considered is 
exactly what it is which we declare to be good when we declare 
that the appreciation of beauty in Art and Nature is so. That 
this appreciation is good, the philosophers in question do not 
for the most part deny. But, if we admit it, then we should 
remember Butler's maxim that : Everything is what it is, and 
not another thing. I have tried to shew, and I think it is too 
evident to be disputed, that such appreciation is an organic 
unity, a complex whole ; and that, in its most undoubted 
instances, part of what is included in this whole is a cognition 
of material qualities, and particularly of a vast variety of what 
are called secondary qualities. If, then, it is this whole, which 
we know to be good, and not another thing, then we know that 
material qualities, even though they be perfectly worthless in 
themselves, are yet essential constituents of what is far from 
worthless. What we know to be valuable is the apprehension 
of just these qualities, and not of any others ; and, if we propose 
to subtract them from it, then what we have left is not that 
which we know to have value, but something else. And it must 
be noticed that this conclusion holds, even if my contention, 
that a true belief in the existence of these qualities adds to the 
value of the whole in which it is included, be disputed. We 
should then, indeed, be entitled to assert that the existence of a 
material world was wholly immaterial to perfection; but the 
fact that what we knew to be good was a cognition of material 
qualities (though purely imaginary), would still remain. It 
must, then, be admitted on pain of self-contradiction on pain 
of holding that things are not what they are, but something else 

Vl] THE IDE4L 207 

that a world, from which material qualities were wholly 
banished, would be a world which lacked many, if not all, of 
those things, which we know most certainly to be great goods. 
That it might nevertheless be a far better world than one which 
retained these goods, I have already admitted (111 (1)). But 
in order to shew that any such world would be thus better, it 
would be necessary to shew that the retention of these things, 
though good in themselves, impaired, in a more than equal 
degree, the value of some whole, to which they might belong ; 
and the task of shewing this has certainly never been attempted. 
Until it be performed, we are entitled to assert that material 
qualities are a necessary constituent of the Ideal ; that, though 
something utterly unknown might be better than any world 
containing either them or any other good we know, yet we have 
no reason to suppose that anything whatever would be better 
than a state of things in which they were included. To deny 
and exclude matter, is to deny and exclude the best we know. 
That a thing may retain its value, while losing some of its 
qualities, is utterly untrue. All that is true is that the changed 
thing may have more value than, or as much value as, that of 
which the qualities have been lost. What I contend is that 
nothing, which we know to be good and which contains no 
material qualities, has such great value that we can declare it, 
by itself, to be superior to the whole which would be formed by 
the addition to it of an appreciation of material qualities. That 
a purely spiritual good may be the best of single things, I am 
not much concerned to dispute, although, in what has been 
said with regard to the nature of personal affection, I have 
given reasons for doubting it. But that by adding to it some 
appreciation of material qualities, which, though perhaps inferior 
by itself, is certainly a great positive good, we should obtain a 
greater sum of value, which no corresponding decrease in the 
value of the whole, as a whole, could counterbalance this, 
I maintain, we have certainly no reason to doubt. 

124. In order to complete this discussion of the main 
principles involved in the determination of intrinsic values, the 
chief remaining topics, necessary to be treated, appear to be 
two. The first of these is the nature of great intrinsic evils, 


including what I may call mixed evils; that is to say, those evil 
wholes, which nevertheless contain, as essential elements, some- 
thing positively good or beautiful. And the second is the nature 
of what I may similarly call mixed goods ; that is to say, those 
wholes, which, though intrinsically good as wholes, nevertheless 
contain, as essential elements, something positively evil or ugly. 
It will greatly facilitate this discussion, if I may be understood 
throughout to use the terms 'beautiful' and ' ugly,' not necessarily 
with reference to things of the kind which most naturally occur 
to us as instances of what is beautiful and ugly, but in accordance 
with my own proposed definition of beauty. Thus I shall use 
the word ' beautiful ' to denote that of which the admiring 
contemplation is good in itself; and ' ugly ' to denote that of 
which the admiring contemplation is evil in itself. 

I. With regard, then, to great positive evils, I think it is 
evident that, if we take all due precautions to discover precisely 
what those things are, of which, if they existed absolutely by 
themselves, we should judge the existence to be a great evil, we 
shall find most of them to be organic unities of exactly the 
same nature as those which are the greatest positive goods. 
That is to say, they are cognitions of some object, accompanied 
by some emotion. Just as neither a cognition nor an emotion, 
by itself, appeared capable of being greatly good, so (with one 
exception), neither a cognition nor an emotion, by itself, appears 
capable of being greatly evil. And just as a whole formed of 
both, even without the addition of any other element, appeared 
undoubtedly capable of being a great good, so such a whole, by 
itself, appears capable of being a great evil. With regard to 
the third element, which was discussed as capable of adding 
greatly to the value of a good, namely, true belief, it will appear 
that it has different relations towards different kinds of evils. 
In some cases the addition of true belief to a positive evil 
seems to constitute a far worse evil; but in other cases it is not 
apparent that it makes any difference. 

The greatest positive evils may be divided into the following 
three classes. 

125. (1) The first class consists of those evils, which seem 
always to include an enjoyment or admiring contemplation of 


things which are themselves either evil or ugly. That is to say 
these evils are characterised by the fact that they include precisely 
the same emotion, which is also essential to the greatest unmixed 
goods, from which they are differentiated by the fact that this 
emotion is directed towards an inappropriate object. In so far 
as this emotion is either a slight good in itself or a slightly 
beautiful object, these evils would therefore be cases of what 
I have called 'mixed' evils; but, as I have already said, it seems 
very doubtful whether an emotion, completely isolated from its 
object, has either value or beauty : it certainly has not much of 
either. It is, however, important to observe that the very same 
emotions, which are often loosely talked of as the greatest or 
the only goods, may be essential constituents of the very worst 
wholes: that, according to the nature of the cognition which 
accompanies them, they may be conditions either of the greatest 
good, or of the greatest evil. 

In order to illustrate the nature of evils of this class, I may 
take two instances cruelty and lasciviousness. That these are 
great intrinsic evils, we may, I think, easily assure ourselves, by 
imagining the state of a man, whose mind is solely occupied by 
either of these passions, in their worst form. If we then consider 
what judgment we should pass upon a universe which consisted 
solely of minds thus occupied, without the smallest hope that 
there would ever exist in it the smallest consciousness of any 
object other than those proper to these passions, or any feeling 
directed to any such object, I think we cannot avoid the 
conclusion that the existence of such a universe would be a 
far worse evil than the existence of none at all. But, if this be 
so, it follows that these two vicious states are not only, as is 
commonly admitted, bad as means, but also bad in themselves. 
And that they involve in their nature that complication of 
elements, which I have called a love of what is evil or ugly, is, 
I think, no less plain. With regard to the pleasures of lust, the 
nature of the cognition, by the presence of which they are to 
be denned, is somewhat difficult to analyse. But it appears to 
include both cognitions of organic sensations and perceptions of 
states of the body, of which the enjoyment is certainly an evil 
in itself. So far as these are concerned, lasciviousness would, 

M. 14 


then, include in its essence an admiring contemplation of what 
is ugly. But certainly one of its commonest ingredients, in its 
worst forms, is an enjoyment of the same state of mind in other 
people: and in this case it would therefore also include a love 
of what is evil. With regard to cruelty, it is easy to see that 
an enjoyment of pain in other people is essential to it ; and, as 
we shall see, when we come to consider pain, this is certainly a 
love of evil : while, in so far as it also includes a delight in the 
bodily signs of agony, it would also comprehend a love of what 
is ugly. In both cases, it should be observed, the evil of the 
state is heightened not only by an increase in the evil or ugliness 
of the object, but also by an increase in the enjoyment. 

It might be objected, in the case of cruelty, that our dis- 
approval of it, even in the isolated case supposed, where no 
considerations of its badness as a means could influence us, may 
yet be really directed to the pain of the persons, which it takes 
delight in contemplating. This objection may be met, in the 
first place, by the remark that it entirely fails to explain the 
judgment, which yet, I think, no one, on reflection, will be able 
to avoid making, that even though the amount of pain con- 
templated be the same, yet the greater the delight in its 
contemplation, the worse the state of things. But it may also, 
I think, be met by notice of a fact, which we were unable to 
urge in considering the similar possibility with regard to goods 
namely the possibility that the reason why we attribute 
greater value to a worthy affection for a real person, is that we 
take into account the additional good consisting in the existence 
of that person. We may I think urge, in the case of cruelty, 
that its intrinsic odiousness is equally great, whether the pain 
-contemplated really exists or is purely imaginary. I, at least, 
am unable to distinguish that, in this case, the presence of true 
belief makes any difference to the intrinsic value of the whole 
considered, although it undoubtedly may make a great differ- 
ence to its value as a means. And so also with regard to other 
evils of this class : I am unable to see that a true belief in the 
existence of their objects makes any difference in the degree o.J 
their positive demerits. On the other hand, the presence o: I 
another class of beliefs seems to make a considerable difference i 


When we enjoy what is evil or ugly, in spite of our knowledge 
that it is so, the state of things seems considerably worse than 
if we made no judgment at all as to the object's value. And 
the same seems also, strangely enough, to be the case when we 
make a false judgment of value. When we admire what is 
ugly or evil, believing that it is beautiful and good, this belief 
seems also to enhance the intrinsic vileness of our condition. 
It must, of course, be understood that, in both these cases, the 
judgment in question is merely what I have called a judgment 
of taste; that is to say, it is concerned with the worth of the 
qualities actually cognised and not with the worth of the 
object, to 'which those qualities may be rightly or wrongly 

Finally it should be mentioned that evils of-this class, beside 
that emotional element (namely enjoyment and admiration) 
which they share with great unmixed goods, appear always also 
to include some specific emotion, which does not enter in the 
same way into the constitution of any good. The presence of 
this specific emotion seems certainly to enhance the badness of 
the whole, though it is not plain that, by itself, it would be 
either evil or ugly. 

126. (2) The second class of great evils are undoubtedly 
mixed evils; but I treat them next, because, in a certain respect, 
they appear to be the converse of the class last considered. 
Just as it is essential to this last class that they should include 
an emotion, appropriate to the cognition of what is good or 
beautiful, but directed to an inappropriate object; so to this 
second class it is essential that they should include a cognition 
of what is good or beautiful, but accompanied by an inappro- 
priate emotion. In short, just as the last class may be described 
as cases of the love of what is evil or ugly, so this class 
may be described as cases of the hatred of what is good or 

With regard to these evils it should be remarked: First, 
that the vices of hatred, envy and contempt, where these vices 
are evil in themselves, appear to be instances of them; and 
that they are frequently accompanied by evils of the first class, 
for example, where a delight is felt in the pain of a good person. 



Where they are thus accompanied, the whole thus formed is 
undoubtedly worse than if either existed singly. 

And secondly: That in their case a true belief in the exist- 
ence of the good or beautiful object, which is hated, does appear 
to enhance the badness of the whole, in which it is present. 
Undoubtedly also, as in our first class, the presence of a true 
belief as to the value of the objects contemplated, increases the 
evil. But, contrary to what was the case in our first class, a 
false judgment of value appears to lessen it. 

127. (3) The third class of great positive evils appears to 
be the class of pains. 

With regard to these it should first be remarked 'that, as in 
the case of pleasure, it is not pain itself, but only the conscious- 
ness of pain, towards which our judgments of value are directed. 
Just as in Chap. III., it was said that pleasure, however intense, 
which no one felt, would be no good at all; so it appears that 
pain, however intense, of which there was no consciousness, would 
be no evil at all. 

It is, therefore, only the consciousness of intense pain, which 
can be maintained to be a great evil. But that this, by itself, 
may be a great evil, I cannot avoid thinking. The case of pain 
thus seems to differ from that of pleasure: for the mere con- 
sciousness of pleasure, however intense, does not, by itself, appear 
to be a great good, even if it has some slight intrinsic value. 
In short, pain (if we understand by this expression, the con- 
sciousness of pain) appears to be a far worse evil than pleasure 
is a good. But, if this be so, then pain must be admitted to 
be an exception from the rule which seems to hold both of all 
other great evils and of all great goods: namely that they are 
all organic unities to which both a cognition of an object and 
an emotion directed towards that object are essential. In the 
case of pain and of pain alone, it seems to be true that a mere 
cognition, by itself, may be a great evil. It is, indeed, an 
organic unity, since it involves both the cognition and the 
object, neither of which, by themselves, has either merit or 
demerit. But it is a less complex organic unity than any other 
great evil and than any great good, both in respect of the fact 
that it does not involve, beside the cognition, an emotion directed 


towards its object, and also in respect of the fact that the object 
may here be absolutely simple, whereas in most, if not all, other 
cases, the object itself is highly complex. 

This want of analogy between the relation of pain to intrinsic 
evil and of pleasure to intrinsic good, seems also to be exhibited 
in a second respect. Not only is it the case that consciousness 
of intense pain is, by itself, a great evil, whereas consciousness 
of intense pleasure is, by itself, no great good; but also the 
converse difference appears to hold of the contribution which 
they make to the value of the whole, when they are combined 
respectively with another great evil or with a great good. That 
is to say, the presence of pleasure (though not in proportion to 
its intensity) does appear to enhance the value of a whole, in 
which it is combined with any of the great unmixed goods 
which we have considered : it might even be maintained that it 
is only wholes, in which some pleasure is included, that possess 
any great value : it is certain, at all events, that the presence 
of pleasure makes a contribution to the value of good wholes 
greatly in excess of its own intrinsic value. On the contrary, if 
a feeling of pain be combined with any of the evil states of 
mind which we have been considering, the difference which its 
presence makes to the value of the whole, as a whole, seems to 
be rather for the better than the worse : in any case, the only 
additional evil which it introduces, is that which it, by itself, 
intrinsically constitutes. Thus, whereas pain is in itself a, great 
evil, but makes no addition to the badness of a whole, in which 
it is combined with some other bad thing, except that which 
consists in its own intrinsic badness; pleasure, conversely, is 
not in itself a great good, but does make a great addition to the 
goodness of a whole in which it is combined with a good thing, 
quite apart from its own intrinsic value. 

128. But finally, it must be insisted that pleasure and pain 
are completely analogous in this : that we cannot assume either 
that the presence of pleasure always makes a state of things 
better on the whole, or that the presence of pain always makes 
it worse. This is the truth which is most liable to be overlooked 
with regard to them ; and it is because this is true, that the 
common theory, that pleasure is the only good and pain the 


only evil, has its grossest consequences in misjudgments of 
value. Not only is the pleasantness of a state not in proportion 
to its intrinsic worth ; it may even add positively to its vileness. 
We do not think the successful hatred of a villian the less vile 
and odious, because he takes the keenest delight in it ; nor is 
there the least need, in logic, why we should think so, apart 
from an unintelligent prejudice in favour of pleasure. In fact 
it seems to be the case that wherever pleasure is added to an 
evil state of either of our first two classes, the whole thus formed 
is always worse than if no pleasure had been there. And simi- 
larly with regard to pain. If pain be added to an evil state of 
either of our first two classes, the whole thus formed is always 
better, as a ivhole, than if no pain had been there ; though 
here, if the pain be too intense, since that is a great evil, the 
state may not be better on the whole. It is in this way that 
the theory of vindictive punishment may be vindicated. The 
infliction of pain on a person whose state of mind is bad may, if 
the pain be not too intense, create a state of things that is 
better on the whole than if the evil state of mind had existed 
unpunished. Whether such a state of things can ever constitute 
a positive good, is another question. 

129. II. The consideration of this other question belongs 
properly to the second topic, which was reserved above for dis- 
cussion namely the topic of 'mixed' goods. 'Mixed' goods 
were defined above as things, which, though positively good as 
wholes, nevertheless contain, as essential elements, something 
intrinsically evil or ugly. And there certainly seem to be such 
goods. But for the proper consideration of them, it is necessary 
to take into account a new distinction the distinction just 
expressed as being between the value which a thing possesses 
' as a whole,' and that which it possesses 'on the whole.' 

When ' mixed ' goods were defined as things positively good 
as wholes, the expression was ambiguous. It was meant that 
they were positively good on the whole; but it must now be 
observed that the value which a thing possesses on the whole 
may be said to be equivalent to the sum of the value which it 
possesses as a ivhole, together with the intrinsic values which 
may belong to any of its parts. In fact, by the ' value which 


a thing possesses as a whole,' there may be meant two quite 
distinct things. There may be meant either (1) That value 
which arises solely from the combination of two or more things ; 
or else (2) The total value formed by the addition to (1) of any 
intrinsic values which may belong to the things combined. 
The meaning of the distinction may perhaps be most easily 
seen by considering the supposed case of vindictive punishment. 
If it is true that the combined existence of two evils may yet 
constitute a less evil than would be constituted by the existence 
of either singly, it is plain that this can only be because there 
arises from the combination a positive good which is greater 
than the difference between the sum of the two evils and the 
demerit of either singly : this positive good would then be the 
value of the whole, as a whole, in sense (1). Yet if this value 
be not so great a good as the sum of the two evils is an evil, 
it is plain that the value of the whole state of things will be 
a positive evil; and this value is the value of the whole, as 
a whole, in sense (2). Whatever view may be taken with 
regard to the particular case of vindictive punishment, it is 
plain that we have here two distinct things, with regard to 
either of which a separate question may be asked in the case 
of every organic unity. The first of these two things may 
be expressed as the difference between the value of the whole 
thing and the sum of the value of its parts. And it is plain 
that where the parts have little or no intrinsic value (as in our 
first class of goods, 114, 115), this difference will be nearly or 
absolutely identical with the value of the whole thing. The 
distinction, therefore, only becomes important in the case of 
wholes, of which one or more parts have a great intrinsic value, 
positive or negative. The first of these cases, that of a whole, 
in which one part has a great positive value, is exemplified 
in our 2nd and 3rd classes of great unmixed goods ( 120, 122); 
and similarly the Summum Bonum is a whole of which many 
parts have a great positive value. Such cases, it may be ob- 
served, are also very frequent and very important objects of 
Aesthetic judgment; since the essential distinction between 
the 'classical' and the 'romantic' styles consists in the fact 
that the former aims at obtaining the greatest possible value 


for the whole, as a whole, in sense (1), whereas the latter sacri- 
fices this in order to obtain the greatest possible value for some 
part, which is itself an organic unity. It follows that we cannot 
declare either style to be necessarily superior, since an equally 
good result on the whole, or ' as a whole ' in sense (2), may be 
obtained by either method; but the distinctively aesthetic 
temperament seems to be characterised by a tendency to prefer 
a good result obtained by the classical, to an equally good 
result obtained by the romantic method. 

130. But what we have now to consider are cases of 
wholes, in which one or more parts have a great negative value 
are great positive evils. And first of all, we may take the 
strongest cases, like that of retributive punishment, in which 
we have a whole, exclusively composed of two great positive 
evils -wickedness and pain. Can such a whole ever be positively 
good on the whole ? 

(1) I can see no reason to think that such wholes ever are 
positively good on the whole. But from the fact that they may, 
nevertheless, be less evils, than either of their parts taken 
singly, it follows that they have a characteristic which is most 
important for the correct decision of practical questions. It 
follows that, quite apart from consequences or any value which 
an evil may have as a mere means, it may, supposing one evil 
already exists, be worth while to create another, since, by the 
mere creation of this second, there may be constituted a whole 
less bad than if the original evil had been left to exist by itself. 
And similarly, with regard to all the wholes which I am about 
to consider, it must be remembered, that, even if they are not 
goods o?i the whole, yet, where an evil already exists, as in this 
world evils do exist, the existence of the other part of these 
wholes will constitute a thing desirable for its own sake that 
is to say, not merely a means to future goods, but one of the 
ends which must be taken into account in estimating what 
that best possible state of things is, to which every right action 
must be a means. 

131. (2) But, as a matter of fact, I cannot avoid thinking 
that there are wholes, containing something positively evil and 
ugly, which are, nevertheless, great positive goods on the whole. 


Indeed, it appears to be to this class that those instances of 
virtue, which contain anything intrinsically good, chiefly be- 
long. It need not, of course, be denied that there is sometimes 
included in a virtuous disposition more or less of those un- 
mixed goods which were first discussed that is to say, a real 
love of what is good or beautiful. But the typical and charac- 
teristic virtuous dispositions, so far as they are not mere means, 
seem rather to be examples of mixed goods. We may take as 
instances (a) Courage and Compassion, which seem to belong 
to the second of the three classes of virtues distinguished in our 
last chapter ( 107); and (b) the specifically 'moral' sentiment, 
by reference to which the third of those three classes was 
defined ( 108). 

Courage and compassion, in so far as they contain an in- 
trinsically desirable state of mind, seem to involve essentially 
a cognition of something evil or ugly. In the case of courage 
the object of the cognition may be an evil of any of our three 
classes; in the case of compassion, the proper object is pain. 
Both these virtues, accordingly, must contain precisely the 
same cognitive element, which is also essential to evils of class 
(1); and they are differentiated from these by the fact that the 
emotion directed to these objects is, in their case, an emotion 
of the same kind which was essential to evils of class (2). In 
short, just as evils of class (2) seemed to consist in a hatred of 
what was good or beautiful, and evils of class (1) in a love of 
what was evil or ugly; so these virtues involve a hatred of 
what is evil or ugly. Both these virtues do, no doubt, also con- 
tain other elements, and, among these, each contains its specific 
emotion; but that their value does not depend solely upon these 
other elements, we may easily assure ourselves, by considering 
what we should think of an attitude of endurance or of defiant 
contempt toward an object intrinsically good or beautiful, or 
of the state of a man whose mind was filled with pity for the 
happiness of a worthy admiration. Yet pity for the undeserved 
Mitferings of others, endurance of pain to ourselves, arid a defiant 
hatred of evil dispositions in ourselves or in others, seem to be un- 
doubtedly admirable in themselves; and if so, there are admirable 
things, which must be lost, if there were no cognition of evil. 


Similarly the specifically 'moral' sentiment, in all cases 
where it has any considerable intrinsic value, appears to include 
a hatred of evils of the first and second classes. It is true that 
the emotion is here excited by the idea that an action is right 
or wrong ; and hence the object of the idea which excites it 
is generally not an intrinsic evil. But, as far as I can discover, 
the emotion with which a conscientious man views a real or 
imaginary right action, contains, as an essential element, the 
same emotion with which he views a wrong one: it seems, 
indeed, that this element is necessary to make his emotion 
specifically moral. And the specifically moral emotion excited 
by the idea of a wrong action, seems to me to contain essentially 
a more or less vague cognition of the kind of intrinsic evils, 
which are usually caused by wrong actions, whether they would 
or would not be caused by the particular action in question. 
I am, in fact, unable to distinguish, in its main features, the 
moral sentiment excited by the idea of Tightness and wrongness, 
wherever it is intense, from the total state constituted by 
a cognition of something intrinsically evil together with the 
emotion of hatred directed towards it. Nor need we be sur- 
prised that this mental state should be the one chiefly associated 
with the idea of Tightness, if we reflect on the nature of those 
actions which are most commonly recognised as duties. For 
by far the greater part of the actions, of which we commonly 
think as duties, are negative: what we feel to be our duty is 
to abstain from some action to which a strong natural impulse 
tempts us. And these wrong actions, in the avoidance of which 
duty consists, are usually such as produce, very immediately, 
some bad consequence in pain to others; while, in many promi- 
nent instances, the inclination, which prompts us to them, is 
itself an intrinsic evil, containing, as where the impulse is lust 
or cruelty, an anticipatory enjoyment of something evil or ugly. 
That right action does thus so frequently entail the suppression 
of some evil impulse, is necessary to explain the plausibility 
of the view that virtue consists in the control of passion by 
reason. Accordingly, the truth seems to be that, whenever 
a strong moral emotion is excited by the idea of Tightness, this 
emotion is accompanied by a vague cognition of the kind of 

Vl] THE IDEAL 219 

evils usually suppressed or avoided by the actions which most 
frequently occur to us as instances of duty; and that the 
emotion is directed towards this evil quality. We may, then, 
conclude that the specific moral emotion owes almost all its 
intrinsic value to the fact that it includes a cognition of evils 
accompanied by a hatred of them : mere Tightness, whether 
truly or untruly attributed to an action, seems incapable of 
forming the object of an emotional contemplation, which shall 
be any great good. 

132. If this be so, then we have, in many prominent 
instances of virtue, cases of a whole, greatly good in itself, which 
yet contains the cognition of something, whereof the existence 
would be a great evil: a great good is absolutely dependent for 
its value, upon its inclusion of something evil or ugly, although 
it does not owe its value solely to this element in it. And, in 
the case of virtues, this evil object does, in general, actually exist. 
But there seems no reason to think that, when it does exist, the 
whole state of things thus constituted is therefore the better on 
the whole. What seems indubitable, is only that the feeling 
contemplation of an object, whose existence would be a great 
evil, or which is ugly, may be essential to a valuable whole. 
We have another undoubted instance of this in the appreciation 
of tragedy. But, in tragedy, the sufferings of Lear, and the 
vice of lago may be purely imaginary. And it seems certain 
that, if they really existed, the evil thus existing, while it must 
detract from the good consisting in a proper feeling towards 
them, will add no positive value to that good great enough to 
counterbalance such a loss. It does, indeed, seem that the 
existence of a true belief in the object of these mixed goods 
does add some value to the whole in which it is combined with 
them : a conscious compassion for real suffering seems to be 
better, as a whole, than a compassion for sufferings merely 
imaginary ; and this may well be the case, even though the 
evil involved in the actual suffering makes the total state of 
things bad on the whole. And it certainly seems to be true 
that a false belief in the actual existence of its object makes 
a worse mixed good than if our state of mind were that with 
which we normally regard pure fiction. Accordingly we may 


conclude that the only mixed goods, which are positively good 
on the whole, are those in which the object is something which 
would be a great evil, if it existed, or which is ugly. 

133. With regard, then, to those mixed goods, which 
consist in an appropriate attitude of the mind towards things 
evil or ugly, and which include among their number the greater 
part of such virtues as have any intrinsic value whatever, the 
following three conclusions seem to be those chiefly requiring 
to be emphasized: 

(1) There seems no reason to think that where the object 
is a thing evil in itself, which actually exists, the total state of 
things is ever positively good on the whole. The appropriate 
mental attitude towards a really existing evil contains, of 
course, an element which is absolutely identical with the same 
attitude towards the same evil, where it is purely imaginary. 
And this element, which is common to the two cases, may be a 
great positive good, on the whole. But there seems no reason 
to doubt that, where the evil is real, the amount of this real 
evil is always sufficient to reduce the total sum of value to a 
negative quantity. Accordingly we have no reason to maintain 
the paradox that an ideal world would be one in which vice and 
suffering must exist in order that it may contain the goods 
consisting in the appropriate emotion towards them. It is not 
a positive good that suffering should exist, in order that we 
may compassionate it ; or wickedness, that we may hate it. 
There is no reason to think that any actual evil whatsoever 
would be contained in the Ideal. It follows that we cannot 
admit the actual validity of any of the arguments commonly 
used in Theodicies; no such argument succeeds in justifying 
the fact that there does exist even the smallest of the many 
evils which this world contains. The most that can be said for 
such arguments is that, when they make appeal to the principle 
of organic unity, their appeal is valid in principle. It might be 
the case that the existence of evil was necessary, not merely as 
a means, but analytically, to the existence of the greatest good. 
But we have no reason to think that this is the case in any 
instance whatsoever. 

But (2) there is reason to think that the cognition of things 


evil or ugly, which are purely imaginary, is essential to the 
Ideal. In this case the burden of proof lies the other way. It 
cannot be doubted that the appreciation of tragedy is a great 
positive good; and it seems almost equally certain that the 
virtues of compassion, courage, and self-control contain such 
goods. And to all these the cognition of things which would 
be evil, if they existed, is analytically necessary. Here then we 
have things of which the existence must add value to any whole 
in which they are contained ; nor is it possible to assure our- 
selves that any whole, from which they were omitted, would 
thereby gain more in its value as a whole, than it would lose 
by their omission. We have no reason to think that any whole, 
which did not contain them, would be so good on the whole as 
some whole in which they were obtained. The case for their 
inclusion in the Ideal is as strong as that for the inclusion of 
material qualities ( 123, above). Against the inclusion of 
these goods nothing can be urged except a bare possibility. 

Finally (3) it is important to insist that, as was said above, 
these mixed virtues have a great practical value, in addition to 
that which they possess either in themselves or as mere means. 
Where evils do exist, as in this world they do, the fact that 
they are known and properly appreciated, constitutes a state of 
things having greater value as a whole even than the same 
appreciation of purely imaginary evils. This state of things, it 
has been said, is never positively good on the whole ; but where 
the evil, which reduces its total value to a negative quantity, 
already unavoidably exists, to obtain the intrinsic value which 
belongs to it as a whole will obviously produce a better state of 
things than if the evil had existed by itself, quite apart from 
the good element in it which is identical with the appreciation 
of imaginary evils, and from any ulterior consequences which 
its existence may bring about. The case is here the same as 
with retributive punishment. Where an evil already exists, it 
is well that it should be pitied or hated or endured, according 
to its nature; just as it-may be well that some evils should be 
punished. Of course, as in all practical cases, it often happens 
that the attainment of this good is incompatible with the 
attainment of another and a greater one. But it is important 


to insist that we have here a real intrinsic value, which must 
be taken into account in calculating that greatest possible 
balance of intrinsic value, which it is always our duty to 

134. I have now completed such remarks as seemed most 
necessary to be made concerning intrinsic values. It is obvious 
that for the proper answering of this, the fundamental question 
of Ethics, there remains a field of investigation as wide and as 
difficult, as was assigned to Practical Ethics in my last chapter. 
There is as much to be said concerning what results are 
intrinsically good, and in what degrees, as concerning what 
results it is possible for us to bring about : both questions 
demand, and will repay, an equally patient enquiry. Many 
of the judgments, which I have made in this chapter, will, no 
doubt, seem unduly arbitrary : it must be confessed that some 
of the attributions of intrinsic value, which have seemed to me 
to be true, do not display that symmetry and system which is 
wont to be required of philosophers. But if this be urged as 
an objection, I may respectfully point out that it is none. We 
have no title whatever to assume that the truth on any subject- 
matter will display such symmetry as we desire to see or (to 
use the common vague phrase) that it will possess any par- 
ticular form of 'unity.' To search for 'unity' and 'system,' at 
the expense of truth, is not, I take it, the proper business of 
philosophy, however universally it may have been the practice 
of philosophers. And that all truths about the Universe 
possess to one another all the various relations, which may be 
meant by 'unity,' can only be legitimately asserted, when we 
have carefully distinguished those various relations and dis- 
covered what those truths are. In particular, we can have no 
title to assert that ethical truths are 'unified' in any particular 
manner, except in virtue of an enquiry conducted by the method 
which I have endeavoured to follow and to illustrate. The study 
of Ethics would, no doubt, be far more simple, and its results 
far more 'systematic,' if, for instance, pain were an evil of 
exactly the same magnitude as pleasure is a good ; but we have 
no reason whatever to assume that the Universe is such that 
ethical truths must display this kind of symmetry: no argument 


against my conclusion, that pleasure and pain do not thus 
correspond, can have any weight whatever, failing a careful 
examination of the instances which have led me to form it. 
Nevertheless I am content that the results of this chapter 
should be taken rather as illustrating the method which must 
be pursued in answering the fundamental question of Ethics, 
and the principles which must be observed, than as giving the 
correct answer to that question. That things intrinsically good 
or bad are many and various; that most of them are 'organic 
unities,' in the peculiar and definite sense to which I have 
confined the term; and that our only means of deciding upon 
their intrinsic value and its degree, is by carefully distinguishing 
exactly what the thing is, about which we ask the question, 
and then looking to see whether it has or has not the unique 
predicate 'good' in any of its various degrees: these are the 
conclusions, upon the truth of which I desire to insist. 
Similarly, in my last chapter, with regard to the question 
'What ought we to do?' I have endeavoured rather to shew 
exactly what is the meaning of the question, and what 
difficulties must consequently be faced in answering it, than 
to prove that any particular answers are true. And that these 
two questions, having precisely the nature which I have assigned 
to them, are the questions which it is the object of Ethics to 
answer, may be regarded as the main result of the preceding 
chapters. These are the questions which ethical philosophers 
have always been mainly concerned to answer, although they 
have not recognised what their question was what predicate 
they were asserting to attach to things. The practice of asking 
what things are virtues or duties, without distinguishing what 
these terms mean ; the practice of asking what ought to be here 
and now, without distinguishing whether as means or end for 
its own sake or for that of its results ; the search for one single 
criterion of right or wrong, without the recognition that in 
order to discover a criterion we must first know what things 
are right or wrong; and the neglect of the principle of 'organic 
unities' these sources of error have hitherto been almost 
universally prevalent in Ethics. The conscious endeavour to 
avoid them all, and to apply to all the ordinary objects of ethical 


judgment these two questions and these only: Has it intrinsic 
value ? and Is it a means to the best possible ? this attempt, 
so far as I know, is entirely new; and its results, when compared 
with those habitual to moral philosophers, are certainly suf- 
ficiently surprising: that to Common Sense they will not appear 
so strange, I venture to hope and believe. It is, I think, much 
to be desired that the labour commonly devoted to answering 
such questions as whether certain 'ends' are more or less 'com- 
prehensive' or more or less 'consistent' with one another 
questions, which, even if a precise meaning were given to them, 
are wholly irrelevant to the proof of any ethical conclusion 
should be diverted to the separate investigation of these two 
clear problems. 

135. The main object of this chapter has been to define 
roughly the class of things, among which we may expect to find 
either great intrinsic goods or great intrinsic evils ; and parti- 
cularly to point out that there is a vast variety of such things, 
and that the simplest of them are, with one exception, highly 
complex wholes, composed of parts which have little or no value 
in themselves. All of them involve consciousness of an object, 
which is itself usually highly complex, and almost all involve also 
an emotional attitude towards this object; but, though they 
thus have certain characteristics in common, the vast variety of 
qualities in respect of which they differ from one another are 
equally essential to their value: neither the generic character of 
all, nor the specific character of each, is either greatly good or 
greatly evil by itself; they owe their value or demerit, in each 
case, to the presence of both. My discussion falls into three main 
divisions, dealing respectively (1) with unmixed goods, (2) with 
evils, and (3) with mixed goods. (1) Unmixed goods may all 
be said to consist in the love of beautiful things or of good 
persons: but the number of different goods of this kind is as 
great as that of beautiful objects, and they are also differentiated 
from one another by the different emotions appropriate to 
different objects. These goods are undoubtedly good, even 
where the things or persons loved are imaginary ; but it was 
urged that, where the thing or person is real and is believed to 
be so, these two facts together, when combined with the mere 


love of the qualities in question, constitute a whole which is 
greatly better than that mere love, having an additional value 
quite distinct from that which belongs to the existence of the 
object, where that object is a good person. Finally it was 
pointed out that the love of mental qualities, by themselves, 
does not seem to be so great a good as that of mental and 
material qualities together; and that, in any case, an immense 
number of the best things are, or include, a love of material 
qualities (113 123). (2) Great evils may be said to consist 
either (a) in the love of what is evil or ugly, or (6) in the hatred 
of what is good or beautiful, or (c) in the consciousness of pain. 
Thus the consciousness of pain, if it be a great evil, is the only 
exception to the rule that all great goods and great evils involve 
both a cognition and an emotion directed towards its object 
(124 128). (3) Mixed goods are those which include some 
element which is evil or ugly. They may be said to consist 
either in hatred of what is ugly or of evils of classes (a) and (6), 
or in compassion for pain. But where they include an evil, 
which actually exists, its demerit seems to be always great 
enough to outweigh the positive value which they possess 




enjoyments 189-202, 203 

judgment 215 

temperament 216 
Aesthetics 200 * 

beauty of 204-5 

misdirected 195, 198 

reciprocal 198 

value of 188-9, 203-5 
Altruism 96-7, 167 
Analytic judgments 7, 29, 33-4, 35, 


Appreciation 189-90, 200, 204-5, 221 
Approval 131 
Approve 60 
Approbation 171 

Appropriate, inappropriate 192, 199, 
204-5, 209, 211, 220 

defined 190 
Aristotle 4 

definition of virtue 171 

valuation of virtues 176-7 

valuation of knowledge 199 

value of 188 

representative, value of 193, 195, 196, 

Autonomy 127 

Bad 5, 27, 28, 95, 140, 143, 157, 178, 

181,188, 209, 210, 213, 214,216, 218 

' Based on ' 38, 49, 54, 114, 115, 118, 

120, 122, 144 

corporeal 203-4 
no criterion of 202 
definition of 201-2, 208 
mental 203-5 

' seeing ' of 190-1 

value of 28, 81-2, 83-5, 86, 94, 

188-9, 201-2, 209, 211, 224 
Being, dist. from existence 110-11 
Belief, value of 193-200, 208, 210-11, 

212, 219, 224-5 
Benevolence, Sidgwick's ' principle of 

Rational' 102-3 
Bentham 145 

naturalistic fallacy 17-19 

quantity of pleasure 77-8 
Bradley, F. H. 

pleasure and desire 70 

theory of judgment 125 
Butler, Bishop 86, 206 

Casuistry 4-5 
Causal judgments 

relation to Ethics 21-7, 36, 146-8, 

149, 180 

Causal relations 31-3, 34-6 
Chastity 158 
Classical style 215-16 

on value of motives 178 

on love 179 
Christian Ethics 178 

on ' external ' Tightness 177 

on ' internal ' Tightness 178-9 

on value of motives 177-9 

on value of virtue 174 
Clifford, W. K. 40 

of evil 217-19 

dist. from knowledge 194 

relation to will and feeling 129-30, 
133, 135-6, 141 

value of 85, 189-92, 194, 199, 208, 
212, 224, 225 



Commands, confused with moral laws 

128-9, 141 
Common sense 224 

on value of pleasure 86, 91-2, 94-5 

on duties 156-9 
Compassion 217, 219, 220, 225 
Conduct, relation of to Ethics 2-3, 

146, 180 

defined 178 

not infallible 149, 180 
Conscientiousness 218 

defined 179 

utility of 180 
Contempt 211, 217 
Corporeal beauty 203-4 
Courage 217 
Crimes 161 

of beauty 202 

evolution as 46, 50, 55-6 

of goodness 137-8 

pleasure as 91-2, 94-5, 108 

of right and wrong 223 

will as 137-8 

of truth 133 
Cruelty 209-11, 218 

Darwin 47 

Definition, nature of 6-9, 18-20 
Desirable, meaning of 65-7, 73 
Desire, cause and object of 68-70, 


= cause of or means to good 24-5, 

105, 146-8, 167, 180, 223 
fuller definitions of 148, 161, 180-1, 

incapable of being known 149-50, 


mainly negative 218 
object of psychological intuition 148 
relations to expediency 167-70, 181 
interest 170-1, 181 
possibility 150-2 
Tightness 148 
utility 146-7, 167-70 
virtue 172 
will 160, 161 
not self-evident 148, 181 
self- regarding 168 

Egoistic Hedonism 18 

Egoism, as doctrine of end 18, 96-105, 


contradiction of 99, 101-5, 109 
relation to Hedonism 97-8 
relation to Naturalistic Hedonism 


Sidgwick's ' Rational ' 98-9, 102-4 
Egoism, as doctrine of means 96-7, 

105, 167 

aesthetic 190 

value of 189-92, 199, 203, 204-5, 

208, 209, 211, 212, 217, 224, 225 
Empirical 39, 111, 123 
Empiricism 103, 124-5, 130 
End = effect 32 
End = good in itself 18, 24, 64-6, 72, 

73, 79-81, 83, 85, 94-5, 184, 216 
dist. from ' good as means ' 24, 72, 

74, 79-81, 89, 90, 94-5, 106-7, 
173-4, 178, 216, 223 

' ultimate' 51, 83, 85, 96-7, 99-102, 
183, 189 

' never justifies means ' 147, 163 
End = object of desire 68, 70, 71, 72 
Enjoyment 77, 96, 188, 208 

aesthetic 188-9, 203 

of evil and ugly 208-11, 218 

sexual 95 
Envy 211 

Epistemology 133, 140-1 

Evolutionistic 46, 50, 54, 58 

Metaphysical 39, 58, 113-15 

Naturalistic 39-41, 58, 59 

Practical 115-18, 140, 146, 149, 151, 
154, 180, 222 

province of 1-6, 21, 24, 26-7, 36, 
37, 77, 115, 118, 142-6, 184, 222-4 
Eudaemonist 175 

Evil 153, 156, 158, 160, 186, 193, 205, 
207-14, 224, 225 

mixed 208, 209, 211 

positive value of 216-22, 225 
Evolution 46-8, 54-8 
Evolutionistic 46, 50, 52, 54, 58 

dist. from being 110-12 

judgments about 123-5 

relation to value 115-18, 118-22 > 



125-6, 194, 196, 197-9, 206, 210, 
216, 219, 220, 221, 225 
Expediency 167-70, 181 


supposed analogy to cognition 129- 

31, 141 
supposed bearing on Ethics 129- 

31, 141 

Fiction 121-2 
Freedom, value of 86, 186 
Freedom (of Will) 127 

God 82, 102-4 

love of 113,194, 195-6, 200 

indefinable 6-16, 41, 79, 110-11, 

= means to good 21, 24 

the Absolute 183, 184, 186 

the Human 183, 184, 186 

mixed and unmixed 208, 209, 214, 
215, 217, 219-20, 224 

my own 97-9, 101, 170 

' private ' 99 

the 8-9, 18 

Universal' 99-102 

Will 174-5, 179 n. 2, 180 
Green, T. H. 139 
Guyau, M. 46 

Habit 171, 175-6, 177 
Hatred 211, 214 

of beautiful and good 211, 217, 225 

of evil and ugly 178, 217, 218, 220, 

221, 225 

Health 42-3, 65, 157, 167 
Heaven 115, 174, 183, 185, 195 

upon Earth 186 

Hedonism 39, 52, 59-63, 90-1, 96, 
108-9, 174 

Egoistic 18 

Ethical 70, 144 

Intuitionistic 59, 74-6, 144 

Naturalistic 46, 50, 53, 54, 68, 104, 

Psychological 18, 68, 69, 70, 73 

Univerealistic 103 
Hegel 30, 34, 110 
Heteronomous 127 
Higher 48-9, 78 

Hobbes 97 
Honesty 175-6 
Hypothetical laws 22, 155 


three meanings of 183-4 

the 183, 185, 205-7, 220-1 
Idealistic 130, 205 
Imagination, value of 193, 194, 196, 

197, 210, 219, 220, 221, 224 
Imperative 128 
Industry 157, 167 
Intention 179 n. 1 
Interest 102 

meaning of 97-8, 106, 170-1 

dist. from 'duty' 170-1, 181 

evil 207, 213, 218, 224 

value 17, 21, 25-30, 36, 147, 173-7, 

187, 189, 207, 214-16, 222-4 

= proposition incapable of proof 59, 
77, 108 

in psychological sense 75, 79, 85, 

92, 108, 144, 148-9, 173 
Intuitionism , 

in Sidgwick's sense 59, 76, 144 

in proper sense 106, 148 


error of 192-3 

two types of ethical 21, 23-7, 115, 

146, 148, 222, 224 
Justice 178 
Justify 97, 101, 147, 163 

Kant 110, 129 

'Copernican revolution' 133 

value of Good Will 174-5, 179 n. 2, 

value of Happiness 174-5 

theory of judgment 125 

'Kingdom of Ends' 113 

'practical love' 179 

connection of 'goodness' with 'will' 


involves truth of object 132, 134 

involves belief 194 

value of 82, 86, 194, 195, 196, 197, 
199, 211, 221 



Lasciviousness 209-10 

ethical 155 

hypothetical 22, 155 

legal 126, 128 

moral 126-8, 146, 148, 160, 162, 

natural 26, 29, 57, 126, 183, 186 

scientific 22-3, 124, 155 
Legal 126, 128 
Leibniz 125 
Life 15, 46, 50, 52, 156 

dependence 61, 110, 118, 122, 139, 

fallacy 140-1 

Christ and Kant on 179 

of beautiful and good 177-9, 199, 
204, 217, 224 

of evil and ugly 209, 210, 211, 217, 


Lucian 45 
Lust 209-10, 218 
Lying 154 

Mackenzie, Prof. J. S. 114, 120 
Material qualities, value of 204, 205- 

7, 221, 225 

Matter, value of 205-7 
Meaning, ' to have no' 31, 34-5 
Means = cause or necessary condition 

18, 21-3, 89, 180 
dist. from ' part of organic whole ' 

27, 29-30, 32, 220 

goodness as, dist. from intrinsic 
value 21, 24, 26, 27, 37, 72, 74, 
79-81, 89, 90, 94-5, 106-7, 115, 
118, 173-4, 178, 187, 195-6, 197-8 
216, 223 

'not justified by end' 147, 163 

beauty of 203-5, 225 
value of 205-7 
Mercy 178 

Metaphysical 39, 58, 110-15, 139-40 

of discovering intrinsic value 20, 
36, 59-60, 64, 89, 91, 92, 93, 95, 
142-5, 173, 185-6, 187-8, 195, 
197-8, 206-7, 209, 223 

of discovering value as means 22-3, 

146, 148-54, 172-3 
Mill, J. S. 145 

Hedonism 63-81, 108 

naturalistic fallacy 40, 66-7, 69, 
72-3, 74, 104, 108 

Psychological Hedonism 68,72,73-4 

quality of pleasure 77-81, 108 

Utilitarianism 104-5 

approbation 171 

law 126-8, 146, 148, 160, 162, 165 

obligation 128 

sentiment 168, 178, 217-19 
Motive 67, 70, 177, 17B-80 
Murder 148, 151, 154, 156-7, 178 


laws 26, 29, 57, 126, 183, 186 
objects and properties 13-14, 39-41, 

58, 110-11 
selection 47 

Natural = normal 42-4, 58 
Natural = necessary 44-5, 58 
Naturalism 20, 40, 58, 144 

Ethics 39-41, 58, 59 
fallacy 10, 13-14, 18-20, 38-9, 48, 
57, 58, 61, 64, 66-7, 69, 72-3, 74, 
104, 108, 114, 118, 124, 125, 139, 
173, 176, 201 
Hedonism 46, 50, 53, 54, 68, 104, 


Nature 40-1, 110, 111, 112 
Nature, life according to 41-2, 113 
Nature, value of 188, 193, 195, 200, 206 

analytic 22, 33-4, 35, 220, 221 
causal or natural 29, 31-2, 34, 186, 

New Testament 177, 178, 179 


of cognition 141, 191, 192, 193, 

of desire 68-70 

natural 13-14, 39-41, 58, 110-11 
Objective 82, 201 

moral 103, 128, 147 
Obligatory 25, 148, 170 



Organic relation, unity, whole 
common usage 30-6 
my own usage 27-31, 32-3, 36, 93, 

96, 149, 184, 187, 189, 190, 202, 

206, 208, 212, 215, 220, 223 

to aim at 24-6, 100 
to do 26, 105, 115, 116, 117, 127, 

128, 140, 146, 148, 173, 180, 223 
to be or exist 17, 115, 118, 127, 128, 

148, 173, 180, 223 

Pain 64, 65, 210, 212-4, 217, 222-3, 225 

Particular 3-4 

Perception 111, 112, 134, 136 

Pessimism 51, 53, 156 


on Egoism 98 

on goods 178 

on Hedonism 88 

on value of Knowledge 199 

on universal truths 111 
Pleasure 12-13, 16 

consciousness of 87-91,109,212 

as criterion 91-2, 108 

and desire 68-71, 73-4 

and 'pleasures' 79 

' quality of ' 77-81 

value of, 39, 46, 50-4, 59-66, 71-2, 
74-5, 79-81, 83, 85-96, 144, 146, 
171, 173, 174, 188, 205, 212-14, 

Pity 217, 221 
Positive science 39 
Possible action 150-1 
Practical, 216, 221 

Ethics 115-18, 140, 146, 149, 151, 
154, 180, 222 

Philosophy 2 
Practice 2, 20 
Praise 171 
Preference 77-9, 131 
Promises 157 
Property, respect of 157 
Propositions, types of 123-6 
Prove 11, 65, 66, 74, 75-7, 99, 112, 

137, 141, 143, 145, 169, 181 
Prudence, 168 

'Maxim of 102-4 
Psychological 11, 130, 140, 148 
Hedonism 18, 68, 69, 70, 73 

Punishment 164 

retributive or vindictive 214, 215, 
216, 221 

Reason 143-4 
Representative art 193 
Reward 174 

Right 18, 24-5, 105, 146, 180, 216, 
218, 223 

dist. from 'duty 1 148 

relation to expediency 167 

externally 176-7 

internally 179 n. 1 
Romantic style 215-16 
Rousseau 42 

Sanctions 159, 164 
Secondary qualities 206 
Self-evidence 143, 144, 148, 181 
Self-realisation 113, 114, 120, 188 
Self-sacrifice 170 
Sensation 134 
Sensationalist 130 
Sidgwick, Henry 145 

value of beauty 81-4, 85-7 

on Bentham 17-19 

rationality of Egoism 99-103 

1 good ' unanalysable 17 

Hedonism 59, 63, 64, 81-7, 91-6, 

method ' of Intuitionism 59, 92-4 

value of knowledge 82, 86 

neglects principle of organic wholes 

pleasure as criterion 91-2, 94-5 

quality of pleasure 77, 81 

value of unconscious 81-4 
Sins 161 

Spencer, Herbert 46, 48-58 
Spinoza 110, 113 
Spiritual, value of 205-6 
Summum Bonum 183, 205 
Stoics 41, 110 
Synthetic 7, 58, 143 

Taste, error of 192-3, 211 
Taylor, A. E. 60 
Temperance 157, 168 
Theodicies 220 
Tragedy 219, 221 




relation to existence 111, 124-5 
cognition 130, 132-4, 136, 141, 

knowledge 134, 194 
types of 111-12, 124-5 
value of 85-6, 193-200, 208, 210, 

211, 212 
Tyndall 40 

Ugly 208, 209-11, 214, 216-19, 221 
Ultimate end 51, 83, 85, 96-7, 99-102, 

183, 189 
Unity 222 

organic, see 'Organic' 

Good 99-102 

truths 21-3, 27, 57, 111, 126, 154-5, 


Universalistic Hedonism 103 
Useful 106, 146, 167 
Utilitarianism 63, 96, 99, 104-7, 109 
Utopias 183, 186 


intrinsic 17, 21, 25-30, 36, 147, 
173-7, 187,189,207, 214-16, 222-4 
as means 21, 174, 195-6 
negative 215, 216 

Vice 171, 209, 211 

definition of 171-3, 181, 223 

three kinds of 175 

mixed 221 

relation to 'duty' 172 

value of 83, 85, 86, 87, 173-80, 

181-2, 217-19, 221-2 

supposed coordination with cognition 

129-30, 133, 135-6, 141 
supposed bearing on Ethics 130, 
136, 141 


good as a 208, 214-16, 219, 221 
good on the 214-16, 219, 220, 221 
organic, see 'Organic' 

Wickedness 220 


as criterion of value 137-8 
relation to duty 160, 161, 180 
the Good 174-5, 179 n. 2, 180 
supposed analogy to cognition 129- 

30, 135-6 

supposed bearing on Ethics 126-7, 
128-31, 135-9, 141 

Wrong 180, 218, 223